Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio August
The Law & the Planner
By Jonathan T. Howe,
LINING UP THE SECURITY FORCE
Well beyond locking up laptops, planners are responsible for
hiring good guards
Security should be a major consideration for the meeting
professional, yet it often is not given the attention it deserves.
One reason might be the overwhelming nature of the task. There’s
the safety of the attendees to ensure, perhaps the privacy of a
high-profile speaker to protect, computers and meeting materials to
guard. At a trade show, add in the valuables exhibitors must leave
on the convention floor overnight.
No wonder many planners would rather leave such issues to the
in-house security staff. But that’s not always the wisest course.
Here are some points to consider when security is a concern.
Depending on the nature of the meeting, different levels of
security will be needed. If the most expensive tool you’re bringing
along is a box of training materials, the facility’s own security
should suffice. But if corporate espionage is feared, it might be
necessary to hire some reputable professionals who answer only to
For trade shows, I often recommend at least three levels of
security. Level one is a team provided by the facility; level two
is a staff engaged by show management, if it is a third party hired
by your organization; level three is a force hired by you, the
host, to watch over the first two. The most competent force, whose
job it will be to coordinate the others and establish and enforce a
chain of command, should be the one you hire.
A site inspection should include a private meeting with the
facility’s director of security. This should be a one-on-one
affair, because the fewer people who know the details, the
You might have VIPs who demand special treatment from a security
standpoint. Controversial speakers might need to be protected;
information such as where they are staying and what their schedules
are should be communicated only to the guardian team and no one
WRITTEN IN STONE
For the same reasons, elements concerning security should not
appear in the main facility contract. Instead, include a provision
that security issues will be dealt with in a separate agreement,
which will be kept confidential.
In that document, articulate the group’s particular concerns.
For example, if you are worried about products left in exhibit
halls overnight, address security’s obligations to prevent theft by
having a set number of guards on duty throughout the night,
patrolling the floor. The provision also should spell out the
minimum number of security staff to be provided by the property,
what level of qualifications the personnel is required to have, and
Additionally, you will want to address access issues, such as
the type of identification needed to enter meeting rooms, the show
floor and behind-the-scenes areas; which rooms will require special
keys; and the level of security needed. If you have speakers or
others who require special treatment, spell out how they should be
handled, as well.
Last, require security to contact you if any incidents occur
involving your guests, or if there are reports of situations that
might compromise the safety of your attendees or the integrity of
THE WALLS HAVE EARS
Some planners might need to protect the integrity of the
information conveyed at the meeting. If so, arrange for experts to
conduct a search to determine whether the room is free from
electronic eavesdropping devices.
Once the meeting is over, make sure no notes or other sensitive
materials remain in the room. Have a shredder in the meeting’s
office to destroy any sensitive debris.Jonathan T. Howe, Esq.,
is a senior partner in the Chicago and Washington, D.C., law firm
of Howe & Hutton, Ltd., which specializes in meetings, travel
and hospitality law. Legal questions can be e-mailed to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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