Tag Archives: meeting safety

International Travel Safety Tips

It’s been more than nine years since 9-11, and Americans are accustomed to “threat levels” and warnings of potential terrorist attacks.

But what should people do if they hear that the threat level is elevated, particularly for international travel?

When vague warnings were issued late in 2010 about potential terrorist attacks in Europe, travelers generally carried on as usual.  Europe is a big place, some reasoned, and the risk to any one individual seemed rather low.

“U.S. citizens should take every precaution to be aware of their surroundings and to adopt appropriate safety measures to protect themselves when traveling,” the U.S. State Department said.

That’s probably good advice to follow anytime.  Regardless of the threat level, here are some common-sense precautions that all Americans should take when traveling abroad:

  • Register with the U.S. State Department. It allows you to record your trip information so the government can help you and your family in case of an emergency.
  • Stay vigilant and keep your eyes open: pay closer attention to public areas that do not have a large amount of formal security.
  • Beware of unattended packages and loud noises: and move away quickly if anything unusual begins to occur.
  • Do not dress in a way that could mark you as an affluent tourist.  Expensive-looking jewelry, for instance, can draw the wrong attention.
  • When attending a meeting, don’t wear your badge outside the hotel or convention center since it identifies you as a visitor and a potential target for crime.
  • Always try to travel light.  You can move more quickly and will be more likely to have a free hand.  You will also be less tired and less likely to set your luggage down, leaving it unattended.
  • Carry the minimum number of valuables, and plan places to conceal them.  Your passport, cash and credit cards are most secure when locked in a hotel safe.
  • When you have to carry valuables, put them each in a different place rather than all in one wallet or pouch.  Avoid handbags, fanny packs and outside pockets that are easy targets for thieves.  Inside pockets and a sturdy shoulder bag with the strap worn across your chest are somewhat safer.  One of the safest places to carry valuables is in a pouch or money belt worn under your clothing.
  • If you wear glasses, pack an extra pair.  Pack them and any medicines you need in your carry-on luggage.
  • To avoid problems when passing through customs, keep medicines in their original, labeled containers. Bring copies of your prescriptions and the generic names for the drugs.  If a medication is unusual or contains narcotics, carry a letter from your doctor attesting to your need to take the drug.  If you have any doubt about the legality of carrying a certain drug into a country, consult the embassy or consulate of that country before you travel.
  • Bring travelers’ checks and one or two major credit cards instead of cash.  Leave a copy of the serial numbers of your travelers’ checks with a friend or relative at home.  Carry your copy with you in a separate place and, as you cash the checks, cross them off the list.
  • Pack an extra set of passport photos along with a photocopy of your passport’s information page to make replacement of your passport easier in the event it is lost or stolen.  Also make two photocopies of your passport identification page, airline tickets, driver’s license and the credit cards that you plan to bring with you.  Leave one photocopy of this data with family or friends at home; pack the other in a place separate from where you carry the originals.
  • Put your name, address and telephone numbers inside and outside of each piece of luggage.  Use covered luggage tags to avoid casual observation of your identity or nationality.  If possible, lock your luggage.
  • Leave a copy of your itinerary with family or friends at home in case they need to contact you in an emergency.
  • When you leave the United States, you are subject to the laws of the country you are visiting.  Learn as much as you can about the local laws and customs of the places you plan to visit.  Check with embassies, consulates or tourist bureaus of the countries you will visit.
  • Avoid public demonstrations and other civil disturbances.
  • Keep a low profile and avoid loud conversations or arguments.
  • Do not discuss travel plans or other personal matters with strangers.
  • Avoid scam artists by being wary of strangers who approach you and offer to be your guide or sell you something at bargain prices.
  • Only take taxis clearly identified with official markings.  Beware of unmarked cabs.

Handling Crisis Situations for your Meetings

A blizzard shuts down transportation routes across the nation, stranding attendees and exhibitors in distant cities as a convention is scheduled to begin.

A shuttle bus runs over and kills an attendee in front of a hotel.

A bomb threat empties a convention center in the midst of the busiest day of a major tradeshow.

These and other crises can wreak havoc on any type of meeting planned by an association or corporation. Even worse, meeting-related crises occur at a time when staff and volunteer leaders are already stretched to the limit with onsite responsibilities.

How does an organization respond?

“It’s a challenge,” says Al Rickard, CAE, president of Association Vision, a Washington, DC-area communications company. “Meeting crises call for a special type of crisis management and communication.”

Rickard offers this meeting-specific advice:

• Anticipate that a crisis may occur and designate a high-level executive to lead the response.  Develop a plan to delegate this person’s meeting-related duties to others if needed.

• Bring the crisis management plan with you in hard copy and electronic formats and make sure key staff and volunteer leaders have a copy. Review the plan briefly before leaving for the meeting.

Create a local media list for the city where the meeting will be held so you can quickly send them information if needed.  While you’re at it, update your trade press media list.  Have them loaded and ready to use on a moment’s notice.

• Create a master list of contact information for all onsite staff and top volunteer leaders, including cell phone numbers, emails, hotel information, and onsite schedules.

Locate the nearest emergency facilities to your meeting, including a hospital, fire station, and police station and have their contact information readily available.  Make sure contact information for key staff at the meeting facility and all official meeting hotels is also available.

• Develop a plan for quickly communicating with all attendees if necessary, even if they are not at the meeting facility. Twitter and Facebook can be very useful tools as long as attendees know to consult these sites to check for news and updates.  Broadcast emails can be used, and hotels can also place messages on room phones.

• Identify and brief a few staff who are not at the meeting on the crisis management plan and provide them with all critical information. They can be valuable assets in a crisis since they can work remotely away from the crisis scene.

• Take advantage of having your top leaders together in one place and meet as needed to develop response strategies. But make sure you designate a single spokesperson.

Rickard has also published 17 Commandments of Crisis Communication, and Association Vision is listed on ConventionPlanit.com.

Maximize Audio Visual Rentals & Limit Cost

Technology has become an event staple – making your audio visual more important than ever.  Here are a few tips to maximize the rentals at the lowest cost:

1.    Negotiating Cost: remember to shop around.  Outside contractors can offer better rates than the in-house AV company, so be sure to obtain several quotes.  In some cases, this can be used as leverage to negotiate a deeper discount with the in-house contractor.

2.    Last Minute Equipment Requests: keep several contractor names handy, in case last minute equipment requests arise.  Your in-house provider may not have a large backstock, whereas outside contractors typically bring extra equipment with them.

3.    Limiting AV Tech Time: Hourly rates for technicians can add up, especially during full conference days.  Consider negotiating an hour of setup assistance at the beginning of each day for any rooms being used.

4.    Battle Static Electricity: In winter months, static can be a persistent problem with electronics.  It can be painful, too!  Bring a static cling remover and dryer sheets to your conference.  Spray the carpeting around the registration area as well as around in conference rooms around wires and electronics with the static cling remover, and use the dryer sheets to wipe down computer screens and projectors.  This will also cut down on dust.

Some of these tips were submitted to the ConventionPlanit.com Stellar Tip Contest.  For a chance to win a monthly prize, submit your own tip, or visit the archive for tips and advice on a variety of topics.

Tips to Manage Risk and Liability When Liquor Is Served

Lawyers will tell you whether you’re giving alcohol away or selling it at an event, anyone who has control over the facility or the event is typically liable if an intoxicated person causes bodily injury or property damage as a result of the liquor served at that event.

The good news is, provided the meeting planner isn’t pouring the drinks, they normally would not be at much risk of being held personally liable. When an employee is acting in the scope of their employment, liability usually rests with the employer, not the individual. That good news, however, does not typically extend to independent meeting planners or third-party meeting planners who are independent contractors and not employees. In these instances, the meeting planner could be held liable along with the company, depending on the circumstances.

“The only way to eliminate liquor liability is to eliminate alcohol from your event,” says Marilyn Hauck, founder and president of The Complete Conference and a 20-year veteran in the meetings industry who plans, markets, and manages meetings and events of all sizes. “A non-alcohol event is often not an option, so the next best way to reduce your liability is to create an environment that discourages overdrinking.”

Hauck suggests these steps to take to keep your attendees from overindulging and to reduce liquor liability:

Give written instructions to bartenders not to serve persons who are either underage or noticeably intoxicated.

Establish a monitoring system to ensure that minors and intoxicated persons are not served alcohol.

• Designate someone from the planning team to refrain from drinking during the function to monitor the bartenders.

Avoid self-service bars and kegs of beer.

• Control the length of the cocktail reception and don’t announce last call.

• Always provide food and non-alcoholic beverages where alcohol is served.

Arrange transportation – or a place to stay – in advance.

Buy liquor liability insurance if your organization is the server or seller.

• Make sure the group has a standard operating procedure for handling attendees who have had too much to drink.

Since its inception in 1979, the mission of The Complete Conference, Inc., has been to develop and implement high quality cost-effective meetings with professionalism, integrity, customer satisfaction and dependability. The company can be reached at 916-922-7032 or info@completeconference.com.

Hotel Salesperson Site Inspection Questions

If you don’t ask the right questions, you don’t get the right answers. For meeting planners that means getting all the information you need to select the optimal meeting site for your group.

Meeting planners are not typically shrinking violets when it comes to asking questions of the sales manager on site selection inspections. However, according to Reggie Sears, CMP, a 25-year veteran independent meeting planner and principal of Sears Enterprises, less experienced planners especially don’t always know or remember what questions to ask.

“That’s why it’s best to use a printed site inspection checklist on every hotel tour so you can compare apples and apples,” says Sears.

Here are some generic questions that Sears says should be included on every list of questions for site sales managers.

• How often does the airport shuttle run?
• Is parking free or can the cost be reduced?
• What is the number of doubles, suites, and rooms with king size beds?
• What’s the square footage of the meeting space, exhibit space, registration and prefunction area and the number of breakouts?
• What other group(s) will be meeting at the property at the same time as your group?
• When was the hotel last renovated and are renovations or construction scheduled for the time your group will meet?
• Is the hotel ownership corporate or franchise, and is any change of ownership or management in the works?
• Is it a union hotel and are there any labor issues?
• Does the property meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act and how many rooms are handicapped accessible?
• What is the hotel’s record on diversity and equal opportunity hiring?
• What is the employee turnover rate?
• What are the rack rates for the last three years?
• What are the names of other groups or meeting planners who have held meetings at the facility (to check references)?

Sears says you can easily use Internet search engines to download templates for site inspection checklists, but it’s important to modify the checklists with questions specific and pertinent to your group.

Sears Enterprises specializes in planning association, fraternal, reunion and religious conferences and training seminars. Sears can be reached at RJSCMP@aol.com or (916) 484-5645.

Fire Safety for Your Inspection Checklist

Meeting planners know that the best way to cover all their bases when in the process of selecting a site is to have checklists of questions or items to cover. The point of these checklists is not to only ensure a well-run meeting but also to minimize your organization’s liability or exposure when making contracts and arrangements.

“Planners who do not research all security aspects of the site of their meetings are asking for trouble, for their attendees and for their organizations,” says Cathy Clifton, who has been involved in the meetings industry for 15 years and is president of C2 & Company Meetings and Events as well as co-founder of The Meeting Planning Academy.

“One of the most essential security checklists is fire safety,” says Mary E. Young, President of M.Y. Events, Inc and the other co-founder of the Meeting Planning Academy.

She recommends that meeting planners speak with the director of security or engineering to get answers to the following questions which should be included on the planner’s Safety Checklist:

• Do all areas of the hotel have sprinklers and fire alarms?
• Are fire alarm systems regularly inspected and tested?
• Does the hotel have a written emergency plan (ask for a copy)?
• What is the hotel’s security department phone number and is it staffed 24 hours a day in addition to pagers and radios?
• Are all exits clearly marked and unobstructed?
• Do all exit doors open in the direction of travel?
• Are guest hall stairwells open to ground and roof?
• Do meeting rooms have at least two exits?
• Are the back hallways open and clear during meetings?
• Does the hotel have emergency lighting?
• How does 911 work from the hotel phones?
• How far away is the closest fire department?
• What is the phone number?
• Are there any outstanding code violations?

For more great meeting ideas, visit www.conventionplanit.com and click on the “For Planners Only” section and go to the “Stellar Tips” link. There is no registration required and you can even enter your own Stellar Tip for a chance to win a valuable prize.

The Meeting Planning Academy™ has trained over 3,000 meeting and event planners and suppliers since its inception in 2002, and offers various types of training and education in meeting and event planning topics throughout the year. More information can be found at www.meetingplanningacademy.com.