How will meeting professionals address risk post-COVID-19? In our latest Smart Meetings #HospitalityStrong webinar, “Preparing to Address Meeting Risk When the Industry Resumes: A Guide For Meeting Planners and Hotel Sales Professionals,” Kevin Coffey, senior travel and meeting risk consultant at GoldSpring Consulting, addressed what both meeting planners and hoteliers should be asking when we all begin meeting again.

Why should meeting professionals address risk?

When it comes to risk management, there are two questions Coffey likes to pose to meetings planners:

  • If an emergency were to occur during one of your meetings, do you think your client would expect you to know what to do or at least have an organized course of basic action?
  • If you were a client looking to contract with a meeting planner or a company, which would you want to work with one that did not address risk?

“When I work with corporate clients, I tell them that if they’re working with a meeting planner that doesn’t address risk, they need to work with somebody else,” Coffey said.

According to Coffey, travel risk management has grown substantially over the last 10 years and it’s beginning to gain momentum on the meetings and events front, although there is still much work to be done. In a survey, in collaboration with WorldAware, only 29 percent of event planners said their company had standalone risk management programs in place to support meetings and events.

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“Times are changing quickly and I think when we start to see our business resume, a lot of the corporate clients are going to start asking these questions. We need to be prepared and the meeting and event industry to be able to step forward and start addressing risks,” he said.

Why should you address risk?

  • It’s expected of you.
  • It’s likely no one else is doing it.
  • Your client probably assumes that you’ve been doing it.
  • If you’re a CMP, you’ve been trained on it.
  • You’ll stand out from the planners that aren’t addressing it.
  • It’s the right thing to do.

These same questions can be posed to hoteliers as well. When Coffey asks hotel sales professionals why they haven’t addressed risk, they often say because the client hasn’t asked any of these questions, and if they’re not concerned about it, then they don’t address it. “We’re really trying to change this industry from both sides of the coin, we both need to be equal partners within this,” he said.

“Everyone is trying to figure out when they’re going to resume travel and how they will reopen their corporate headquarters and how they will keep people safe on the road,” Coffey said.

Meeting Risk Checklist

A million issues can impact any meeting or event. The savvy meeting professional assesses all the possibilities and identifies all possibilities as a first step to creating a response plan. Coffey offered a sample list:

  • Pandemic (including, but not limited to COVID-19)
  • Medical emergencies and death
  • Natural disasters
  • Criminal activity
  • Disputes/activism/civil unrest
  • Terrorism
  • Evacuation

“Make your risk plan and checklist part of your pre-con and day-of-event walkthrough, including a walkthrough of the hotel facilities emergency plan,” Coffey advised. He also suggests reviewing the facility plan, walking the evacuation route and asking lots of “what-if” questions of staff.

“A good meeting crisis management plan starts with assessing the risks that might occur based on the probability that they will occur,” Coffey said.