Image Credit: Asian Development Bank

Risk management – even the term sounds a bit boring. But it is not, as anyone who has gone through a crisis well knows: it is the risk management plan that can turn a small crisis into something minimal and a large crisis into a well-managed series of events.  

But how can you prepare for everything in a world where threats are constantly evolving? The key lies in grouping potential risks into categories. Usually these include acts of Nature (e.g. weather, earthquakes, volcanoes, disease, sickness) acts of Humans (e.g. terrorism, crime) or Scandal (also acts of humans in the sense of public relations disasters), and then preparing associated plans. There are other permutations, but grouping in this way can help at the outset.  

Then, there are several lenses to use when assessing the threats. The first lens is to look at likelihood versus damage. Creating a matrix with likelihood being one axis and damage on the other axis, provides a good grouping for which risks are the most likely but least damaging, and the least likely but most damaging.  Making sure you have a plan, which accounts for all of those most important to your organization, ensures you are allocating the proper resources and money they deserve.

Next, you need to identify how you might contain possible threats. For some crises you can plan your response only so far (e.g a natural disaster), while others you can work to minimize (e.g. crime) ahead of time. Nearly all threats can also be insured to protect against financial ruin, even the non-appearance of a headlining speaker.  Also, you need to know what is your duty of care to the attendees, your staff, and any other stakeholders. Once you’ve assessed the responses, it’s time to look at how to communicate and execute.  

Communication teams and clear communication roles are critical when a crisis strikes. Who are the spokespeople for the organization? Who will be working to craft the response for social media, the press, the attendees? How often will bulletins be sent out, if needed? And who is telling all the various groups what is to be done, from vendors to venues? These are all necessary elements in any robust risk communication plan.  

Lastly, how will the plan be executed? Do you need satellite phones? Medevac planes at the ready? Or simply back-up hotels and roll-over transportation services? These logistic items need to be put into place as insurance before the event starts – meaning the budget for “insurance” sometimes includes signing contracts for vendors that will never be used.

But, in the end, a robust risk management plan means that attendees can count on you when it matters most. And as event producers, we may not always be recognized for sessions that run on time, or food that comes out when it should, but if a crisis does occur…we can indeed be heroes. Just for one day.
Click here to view a recording of our co-hosted webinar on Planning for the Worst.

Image Credit: Asian Development Bank