Five areas to watch for reducing risk in business event planning

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risk management

By Yma Sherry

The meetings and events environment has undergone a lot of change in the past few years. More and more companies are rolling out managed meetings programs to enhance transparency, gain efficiencies and save money. But, as with any bustling business division, there are inherent risks lurking in meetings and events departments. These are risks that companies cannot afford to overlook.

American Express Meetings & Events took a look at meeting planners’ current awareness and behaviours around these risks then and now in a new research report called Mitigating Risk in Meetings: 2013 vs 2016.

Here’s the good news: Overall, our findings indicate improvement across all risk categories. Today, 89 per cent of planners and 80 per cent of meeting owners agree that risk is properly mitigated in their organization. Despite this positive uptick, there are still gaps where meeting planners can improve their efforts to mitigate risk and risky behaviours can be course-corrected.

Here are the top five risk categories that planners MUST have on their radar:

Crisis management

In light of recent global tragedies, businesses have an eagle eye on employee safety — and that includes guests hosted at meetings and events. Our study found that 86 per cent of meeting owners have (or plan to have) duty of care clauses in their meetings policies to protect meeting attendees in the face of unexpected interruptions or threats.

The flip side of this is that almost one-third of planners and meeting owners still do not have standard operating procedures in place to manage a crisis. Even more concerning, 11 per cent of planners never track their attendees.

If a crisis strikes, planners can respond faster and help more people if they know where their attendees are. All planners should have detailed plans and emergency procedures in place to help increase response time in an emergency.

Expense data tracking and reporting

In the past three years, stakeholders have come to expect meeting planners to track and report data on the events they host. Planners have stepped up — now almost 95 per cent of meeting planners are tracking and reporting on all meeting expenses. This is up almost 15 per cent from three years ago.

While data drives powerful insights for planners, there is inherent risk in gathering it because sensitive information is often at stake. The research found that almost 50 per cent of meeting owners report that their organization doesn’t require planners to track savings and cost data, contrary to progress the industry has made as a whole. To improve this number, planners should investigate meetings management technologies that automate the data reporting process, making planners’ lives easier.

Ethics

Alarmingly, our research found that unethical activities might actually be increasing within M&E departments from 2013.  Fifteen and a half per cent of meeting owners suspect that unethical activities, such as potential misuse of familiarization trips, are happening right under their noses. This is up from two per cent of meeting owners in 2013.

While it’s disappointing that some planners show risky behaviours, organizations can prevent this by offering ethical education sessions and sharing tactics for how to respond when asked to execute unethical requests.

Policy

One hundred per cent of planners in 2016 say they are likely to follow their organization’s meeting policy, compared to 88 per cent in 2013. The reason for this is two-fold: It’s reflective of the industry’s increasing focus on compliance, and results from meeting planners leaning on meetings management partners more than ever.

Even though any good meeting owner knows that policy is the first step to an efficient program, 17 per cent of them say that there is no formal meeting policy in place at their company. Taking the step to develop policies seems like a big task, but meeting owners who do so will reap the rewards and see less risk, bigger cost savings and more successful meetings and events.

Contracts

Planners working with meetings suppliers without having a contract in place assume financial and legal risk for their organization. The good thing is that 86 per cent of planners today say their legal and procurement departments review hotel contracts, demonstrating that planners are taking the right steps to minimize risk when working with suppliers.

About the author:

Yma Sherry is Vice President North America, American Express Meetings & Events. For more information, email Yma at [email protected]

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