Corporate Event Crisis Management | Andavo Meetings & Incentives | Denver, Colorado

Imagine this: your meeting is off to its first day with a record-breaking number of attendees, prestigious VIPS and speakers, and a gathering of exhibitors. One of the biggest hits is your exhibit hall, which is packed to the brim with 300 plus attendees, booths, and hotel personnel. As your staff and meeting planners are surveying your success, you notice two men in overalls with paint caps walking around through the back end of the hall. They both have exhibitor bags that are bulging with items. They start laughing and pointing at people, acting like clowns. Some people notice but are not too concerned. Suddenly, they break into yelling, name calling, and obscenities.

How would you react to this situation? Call hotel security? Intervene?

What about when the situation escalates? All of a sudden, the attendees and exhibitors are panicking and some start running away. The protesters are yelling, “We left a present for you! You are going to burn in hell!” Someone tells you that they saw the men come into the exhibit hall from the back entrance through the loading dock area.

And where things might seem disrupted, what if they only get worse? Six hotel security officers arrive and attempt to restrain the two men. A gun falls out of one of the bags with propaganda materials. People begin screaming at the sight of the gun and start yelling, “How do I get out of here?!” You are getting texts and phone calls from your CEO, executives, and board members. Finally, the police arrive. Security orders a full evacuation of the area. Hotel staff is directing people where to go.

You now see tweets and Instagram photos of the SWAT Team going into the hotel are going out like crazy.

What about now? Looking over this scenario, could you truly say that your team is prepared for this particular event? And the list does not stop here. What about a fire alarm in the middle of your gala? Or a presenter getting into a squabble with your attendees? How about handling a major storm emerging immediately before your event? Is it truly reasonable to expect your staff, participants, and managers to understand how to deal with fear and panic in the face of crisis?

Make no mistake. You are exposed if you do not have a crisis response and communication plan specific to your event destination, hotel, and venues. You are exposed if your events team does not understand their role in a crisis and have not rehearsed before the event.
And you are exposed if your events team has not met with local first response teams so that your staff knows what to do in case of a disaster like a hurricane or active shooter.

Both internal and external risks exist in countless scenarios, emerging in constantly uncertain manners with the potential to significantly impact your events. Knowing that risks can emerge at any moment, how do you demonstrate that you are fulfilling your duty of care to all event participants in keeping them safe and secure?

Despite extensive corporate risk management efforts, the fact is that corporate crisis planning rarely includes meetings and events.



Corporate Meeting Crisis Planning | Andavo Meetings & Incentives | Denver, Colorado

At Andavo Consulting, all of our sessions are interactive, and this client was no different, beginning with an interactive polling session.

Session One of Andavo Consulting’s “Risk Management for Events” begins with a global company’s top executive meeting stakeholder and logistics team gathered for a 3-hour strategy meeting. The goal of this session was to have the teams collaborate together to produce a “state of preparedness” roadmap for their upcoming annual 3000 person conference which was 3 months away. The session took place shortly after a horrific shooting in the city of their upcoming event. The complications of their meeting were obvious to all involved.



Event Crisis Planning | Andavo Meetings & Incentives | Denver, Colorado

75% believed that they were prepared to handle a disruption or crisis!
Further polling revealed a major disconnect:

Less than 50% had previously experienced any event disruption or crisis or understood their roles and responsibilities in a crisis. Many asked, “Do I have to give First Aid or CPR?”

Only 39 % knew who would lead them in a crisis and less than 25% believed there was any plan to handle an event crisis.

100% admitted they had no communication strategy, and did not know who they should tell about a crisis or what they were allowed/expected to tell them.

This illustrates the CRISIS IN CONFIDENCE when it comes to meeting and event risk management. The team had no risk management plan in place, and did not know where to begin in creating one. This is common!  

Over 80% of companies do not have a crisis response plan for each venue

More than 60% of event organizers don’t gather emergency contact information from their attendees

Most event organizers do not meet with the hotel/venue security to obtain updated first responder procedures

A universal personal concern was: “How will I handle my own personal fear, panic and lack of knowledge in a crisis?”

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“Hurricane Sandy was on its way to hit Baltimore on opening day of our 2500 person Summit. The Andavo team worked tirelessly to implement a multi layered crisis management plan so the program could go on, even facing the possibilities of power outage, flooding, food and water shortage and medical emergencies. Our foremost concern was the safety and well-being of all participants and our challenge was to hope for the best and prepare for the worst.


The fact that decisions had to be made in the face of major uncertainty and lack of predictability made this Summit not only memorable for advancing the mission of the organization, but for the equally compelling lessons in crisis management leadership. Without the Andavo team, the outcomes could have been dramatically different.”

Teddy Basham Witherington, former Chief Marketing Officer Out & Equal Workplace Advocates Andavo Meetings and Incentives November 11, 2016

According to the Harvard Business Review, executives fail to plan for two main reasons:

“I don’t have time for a crisis!” There is no time to focus on the worst case that is not likely to happen.

I don’t want to be gloom and doom or make people panic.”  Leaders are forward thinking, positive. Risk management focuses on the negative—threats, failures, catastrophes—and is counterintuitive to the “can do” culture leaders need to foster in their corporate business strategy.  Leaders can be overconfident in their assessment of their ability to manage crisis. They want to view the world as they would like it to be rather than as it could become.

*Harvard Business Review, “Managing Risks: A New Framework”, June, 2012, Kaplan and Mykes.

Most executives believe that their internal legal and risk management experts review their meetings and events for potential risks. Corporations have extensive corporate security teams to handle emergency situations for their employees.  While this is certainly the case for corporate risk management, if the corporate crisis handbooks are not regularly updated for meetings and events to include scenario trainings that incorporate the event hotel security, local medical and law enforcement procedures, then they are really not prepared to meet their duty of care to protect the safety and well-being of their participants.



Corporate Meeting Crisis Management| Andavo Meetings & Incentives | Denver, Colorado

The duty of care to safeguard corporate employees when traveling for business has long been the foundation of corporate travel management policies.  Similarly, the meeting and event owner has a duty of care to take all reasonable steps available to protect the safety and well-being of all participants. Increasing occurrences of climate unpredictability, natural disasters, pandemics, acts of terrorism and active shooter situations have created the need for heightened awareness of the vulnerabilities of meetings and events. Many of these crises are impossible to prevent, but having a detailed risk management plan and a well-rehearsed crisis team will help mitigate the risk, enable faster response, avoid injuries and ultimately save lives!

Individuals and meeting owners should be prepared to handle an event crisis by being well-informed about the destination, the venue, the local emergency response teams and their roles in crisis management, and how to follow the established procedures.  Even if likelihood of an active shooter or a hurricane is remote, the world we live in today is unpredictable. So why wouldn’t you do all that is reasonable and prudent in order to protect the safety of your participants and preserve your company’s financial and brand integrity?



Event Crisis Management From Andavo Meetings & Incentives | Denver, Colorado

At Andavo Consulting, we understand the reality facing our clients. Over the past 25 years across 75 countries, we have experienced event disruptions and crises including serious weather disasters and medical emergencies, near drownings, threats of violence, bomb scares, a homicide, and even a horse running wild! No matter how remote, these risks exist and they have the power to impact your event outcomes and cripple your bottom line.

Our goal is to help companies fulfill their duty of care to meeting and event participants by educating and training their teams to confidently prepare, respond to, and recover from any type of crisis. Our consulting practice is based upon a collaborative, or 360-degree process designed to engage your meeting stakeholder teams to create a risk management strategy for meetings and events which is replicable for all types and complexities.



Corporate Event Crisis Management | Andavo Meetings & Incentives | Denver, Colorado
  • Stage One: Identifying Your Current State of Preparedness
    Stage One: Identifying Your Current State of Preparedness
Stage One: Identifying Your Current State of Preparedness

First, it is critical to understand how your organization mobilizes to address a meeting crisis. Throughout these first sessions, we evaluate the competencies of your organization, how your meeting stakeholder team currently prepares for different crises, and the gaps in protecting your investments. This first stage is all about your bottom line, including what goals matter most to your organization, a review of current investments, and drafting a case for better meeting and event risk management planning. After participating in the current reality sessions, your team will be empowered, inspired, and emboldened. Most of all, they will take ownership of the outcomes and will be motivated to complete the risk management strategy for the company’s meetings and events.

  • Stage Two: Risk Assessment and Vulnerability
    Stage Two: Risk Assessment and Vulnerability
Stage Two: Risk Assessment and Vulnerability

Only after we thoroughly understand the risk management realities of your current meetings do we then conduct a Risk Assessment and Vulnerability Study. Through this, we use actionable data, past established plans, review contracts, and do an after-action review of a recent significant event, participant feedback, and real-world examples to assess your present risk.

This risk assessment process not only evaluates your reality, but it also provides you with a set of templates that can be replicated for future events. Working with you directly on your Risk Assessment and Vulnerability Study covers everything including foreseeable disruptions, frequent occurrences, and 10 of the most critical crises that could impact your organization.

  • Stage Three: Preparing for a Future Event Crisis
    Stage Three: Preparing for a Future Event Crisis
Stage Three: Preparing for a Future Event Crisis

The culmination of our collaborative work results in your team development of the risk management playbook: a step-by-step crisis response plan tailored to your organization and providing set plans for addressing emerging risk. This plan includes the crisis communication plan, decision process, and hierarchy and social media strategy. This playbook is a model for future meetings and events in a scalable and customizable fashion.

Incorporated into this last action item is a summary of your organization’s readiness that can be utilized to gain buy-in from outside stakeholders in revamping your existing process. Additionally, we provide actionable items addressing how to prepare for a crisis before an event, how to respond to a crisis during an event, and how to recover from a potential crisis.

Event Crisis Planning | Andavo Meetings & Incentives | Corporate Event Planners in Denver

A meeting or event crisis is defined as: “A major unexpected occurrence or series of unpredictable disruptions that threaten the safety, security, and well-being of attendees, the organization’s strategic objectives, reputation, or viability.” — Brenda Rivers, CEO, Andavo Meetings and Incentives

Since every organization, every meeting, and every crisis is different, we ground our work in your reality. We provide the process that fits your needs, and the evolving, shifting, and ever-changing events inspiring these risks.

Below are some of the common scenarios that have the potential to impact your organization. These are prominent examples we have encountered before or ones we prepare our clients to address as evolving, complex issues emerging in the events and meeting marketplace.

Andavo Meetings & Incentives | Corporate Crisis Management | Denver, Colorado
Zika is a growing risk as there are now numbers of cases spanning numerous states and geographic locales that are top destinations for meeting planners and incentive-driven programs. With confirmed cases spreading across states like Florida, California, and Texas along with Mexico and the Caribbean, Zika is only one of many medical pandemics that have the potential to impact your bottom line.

A meeting crisis that occurs from a pandemic or even the threat of a pandemic should be mitigated in advance with the proper allocation of the risks and costs/damages associated with it as well as adequate alternatives for the attendees who can be considered an “at risk” population.

When facing issues such as pandemics, there are a variety of risk factors that emerge. Most notably, it is important that your attendees are informed and warned regardless of whether these attendees are employees, VIPs, or guests. At the present time, the “threat” of a pandemic is not considered a force majeure event allowing you to cancel your event without paying the cancellation damages. Most event cancellation insurance policies list pandemics as an exclusion. The risk of major financial losses as well as potential legal liability and reputation damage is a serious one to an organization considering a location known to have Zika. What are the risks if you have the meeting planned and then a threat of pandemic occurs AFTER the contracts are executed?

With Zika in particular, a large concern that emerged for one of our clients meant working with many of their female participants who were afraid of attending the event due to the CDC and WHO travel warnings. The company was concerned about the wellbeing of all participants as well as addressing the possibility that a percentage of attendees would no longer attend, thereby making the “business purpose” of the event impossible to achieve. Upon learning that the hotel would not consider the threat of Zika a force majeure event, the client elected to move the entire event one month later to a different location and pay the 90% cancellation damages.

A Zika or pandemic risk management strategy begins in the due diligence stage of the event design. Hotel/venue flexibility regarding a pandemic must be included in proper contract negotiations during the site selection and hotel sourcing process. Specific contract language must be included in hotel and venue contracts so that the client can cancel or amend the contract under specific circumstances if the event success is impacted by these threats. Preparing for a Zika event disruption requires a principled approach to be applied well in advance of the event so that all contracts have reasonable cancellation clauses or reduction of room block and food and beverage guarantees with a waiver or reduction of penalty.

Often, contracts are negotiated months, if not years, in advance of the event. Circumstances can be very different when the event actually begins, but the client must live with the contract as executed.

The client’s duty of care to safeguard the safety and well-being of event attendees is core to a successful program and to avoid liability to the client in the unlikely event an attendee contracts Zika at the event and gives birth to a baby with a birth defect. Or, if another attendee suffers the worst effects of Zika after contracting it at the event. If it is reasonable that the client knows about the threat of a pandemic when the destination is selected, the client has a duty to warn all attendees and offer alternative options to the at risk group.
Determining how many attendees are in the “at risk” population is critical so that the risk management plan specifies advising this group of the risk and having an “opt out” program for that at risk group. Also, the client should plan in advance how it will communicate with the attendees in an open and deliberate manner so that it is clear that the client’s first concern is the safety and well-being of all participants.

Event cancellation insurance should be investigated to determine if it could apply to mitigate losses due to frustration of the business purpose of your event.

The Andavo Consulting approach in managing the risk of Zika is to educate and train our clients on how to mitigate the financial and legal risk of loss from ANY pandemic (or threat of one) PLUS how to ensure that the client’s duty of care to safeguard the wellbeing of all attendees is core to the success of any event.

Andavo Meetings & Incentives | Corporate Event Crisis Management | Denver, Colorado
All of these catastrophes should be considered as foreseeable in today’s world!

Depending on the location of your event, the crisis posed by these occurrences can differ vastly. For some, these types of catastrophes can strike without warning, occurring in the form of earthquakes, tornados, or ice storms. Other natural environmental disasters such as hurricanes as well as strikes and changes in laws affecting the business outcome of the event usually allow for advance warning.

The common element for all of these scenarios is: they are foreseeable and can all be properly addressed in a crisis response and communication plan which allows for mobilization of your crisis team under a pre-rehearsed set of contingency plans.  Understanding that it is impossible to plan and rehearse for every catastrophe, the Andavo Risk Management contingency plans will be crafted so that they can apply to many similar emergency situations.

  • Weather Related
    Weather Related
Weather Related

Weather related interruptions are certain to cause disruption to an event if a rehearsed contingency plan is not in place: power outages, flooding, travel delays, speaker cancellations, program delays changing the agenda, lowered attendance. All of these are manageable, however, without a risk management strategy, they can turn into a full-blown crisis.

  • Physical Safety
    Physical Safety
Physical Safety

Physical safety and security of participants: medical issues such as stroke, heart attack, fall, asthma, allergic reaction, seizure, choking, bomb threats, foodborne illness, threat or actual violence, hostage situation. Any occurrence that causes panic, fear, anger, or uncertainty in your participants will raise the risk of physical harm. Two key factors which are often overlooked in a risk management strategy are collecting emergency contact information (or a release) AND having it readily available to the crisis response team, and requiring daily housing reports to determine the location of all registered participants.

  • Property Damage
    Property Damage
Property Damage

Property damage: damage to the venue, theft, damage or loss of participant property or program materials. Do you have a process to respond, report, and recover? Do you understand your insurance coverage and mitigation/claims process?

  • Financial Risk & Legal Liability
    Financial Risk & Legal Liability
Financial Risk & Legal Liability

Financial risk and legal liability: risk of loss due to poorly drafted contract clauses, breach of performance, lack of financial oversight and checks and balances, compromised credit card data.

  • Intellectual Property & Cyber Fraud
    Intellectual Property & Cyber Fraud
Intellectual Property & Cyber Fraud

Intellectual property and cyber fraud: hackers to participant and program data, competing groups, piracy.

Our facilitative process will enable you to discover:

How vulnerable is your specific event?  What kinds of disruptions and disasters are foreseeable in the location, hotel, venue, political climate, and weather patterns for your event? Are your participants, subject matter, speakers or sponsors controversial? What is the history of labor strikes, protests, and natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes in the destination?

Assessing your risk is the critical first step in addressing the countless factors in this scenario. Andavo Consulting will teach your team to design and construct an event risk matrix. You will learn how to capture which risks are less likely to occur, but hold greater consequences as well as risks which are more likely to occur but have lesser consequences. An impact analysis will quantify the threat to safety and well-being of participants and the potential financial and legal impact, as well as the impact on your organization’s reputation.

Based upon the risk matrix, your team will learn how to develop contingency plans for each of the major risk areas. These typically include:

  1. Cancellation of the event in advance
  2. Cancellation during the event
  3. Rescheduling the entire event to a different place, time, or hotel
  4. Adjusting the program, agenda, attendance, and staffing to hold the event

For each of the 4 contingency plans, your team will draft an analysis to determine

  1. What are the compelling factors to decide this contingency?
  2. What are the financial and contractual liabilities, i.e. the sum of all contract damages?
  3. What are the mitigation opportunities and insurance benefits?
  4. The timing and final decision maker(s) for the contingency plan

During the creation of your crisis response and communication plan, Andavo will instruct you in setting up a messaging strategy to implement via your website and social media outlets that allows you to proactively inform participants of everything from weather changes to available safety areas in venues, any special preparations needed, effects on transportation, and any refund processes. In addressing this, we will teach your organization how to establish a mobile “command center” that allows for the coordination of information between the event team, venue, and even the city.

Additionally, Andavo will address your concerns for fiscal responsibility. This will include considering all options for either scaling down the event or canceling to best guarantee the safety of participants. A key fiscal aspect is oversight and management of insurance and a thorough review of venue contracts in order to generate contingencies to minimize potential unexpected costs that add to your bottom line.

Andavo Meetings & Incentives | Meeting Crisis Management | Denver, Colorado
The public perception of traveler’s safety and security has only intensified with the aftermath of the Paris attack, the bombings in Brussels, the mass shooting in a banquet room in California, and the Orlando Pulse terrorist killings. The new norm of travel makes safety and security concerns a serious issue for every organization involved in face-to-face meetings and events.

In fact, a recent study by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism has identified hotels and convention centers as easy, soft targets for terrorist attacks. Any time you have an aggregation of people, it can become a high profile target. “Are we prepared when someone walks into a convention center in this country and starts shooting? Because it is going to happen.” advised Michael Dominquez, Senior Vice President of Sales, MGM Grand, at Global Meetings Industry Day.

Similar to acts of terrorism, other threats of violence and active shooter rampages are unpredictable and unpreventable. These acts of violence can unfold even with protesters at your organization who may not use guns, but are willing to use violence as a means of intimidating and threatening your participants. Many states have open carry gun laws and an attendee may bring a gun into your event for self-protection. Sadly, acts of violence could spark from a disgruntled employee, rejected hire, or even outside third party with some connection to your company.

A company’s greatest asset is its people. To lose one life is an immeasurable loss. When considering active shooters and terrorism, there is no room for doubt. The somber truth is that such acts of violence are typically over in five minutes or less, depending on how long it takes law enforcement to arrive on the scene. While evacuation and run-hide-fight training is the best way teach people what to do in such a situation, many registrants react in fear and panic when invited to rehearse what they would do. Many meeting stakeholders, executives, and planners have the attitude, “Since there is nothing we can do to predict or prevent this from happening, and odds are it won’t, let’s not panic everyone and turn them away.” For many attendees, just being reminded that the Orlando shooting was in the recent past causes some to panic and be fearful of attending an event in Orlando.

How a company should prepare for such a horrific, yet unlikely catastrophe presents unique challenges. At a recent Andavo client program in Orlando, the meeting organizer had numerous inquiries of the measures being taken to protect meeting attendees from a shooter. Was there extra security? Was local law enforcement involved? Was the FBI monitoring threats to the Orlando community? How would the attendee know where to evacuate? Was there a paramedic onsite during the event? What was the role of hotel security? Such concerns were expressed during the registration period, prompting the organization to engage in crisis management training for active shooter before the event and to rehearse onsite. Information on heightened security for active shooters was provided to all registrants on the “know before you go” section of the website. Hotel evacuation routes were available at the registration check in desk and in the rooms.

Your risk management strategy for handling any type of violence at your event must include the financial implications, legal liability, and insurance, as well as the impact on your brand and the trust participants will place in your company for future events. Organizations should also consider planning for the after effects of these scenarios. While it might not take place at your event, and thus, not be an active part of your crisis management strategy, one concern you must deliberately address is how your organization will support survivors and individuals who underwent this traumatic experience. Again, these complications are not often addressed, however, represent a potential step your company can take in regaining trust with your employees.

Acts of violence occur without warning and have devastating consequences. Your risk management plan will focus on preventing loss of life as well as mitigating the repercussions of the violence. Attendee safety and wellbeing is more important than ever.

The two distinct phases of crisis planning for any type of violence are:

Prevention and Mitigation Prior to the Act

The most important crisis prevention and mitigation goals to achieve before a violent act occurs are:

1. Assess the risk factors for any type of violence at your destination, hotel, and venues: demographic makeup of group, history of prior violence in host destination/venue, controversial subject matter, speakers, political climate, elections, labor strikes, protests.
2. Understand the security operational guidelines of your hotel/convention center/venues
3. Train your crisis response team on “how to get help,” require active shooter training for your team
4. Assign additional security measures based on the threat assessment: guards at entrances, law enforcement onsite, EMT onsite, bag checks, badge monitoring
5. Offer information to all participants in advance: the company’s state of preparedness, evacuation routes, and run-hide-fight training
6. Train all involved on situational awareness and if you see something say something.

We hope that this prevention stage is all that you will need to do and there is no act of violence!

Crisis Control Mobilization and Recovery After the Act:

As soon as law enforcement arrives, your crisis communication team will mobilize.

Step 1: Your team begins following the protocol for recovery. Your key crisis response team jumps into their pre-assigned roles and responsibilities in dealing with a violent attack and loss of life.

Step 2: Set up your communication “hub,” your command and control center.

Step 3: Response teams will follow through all pre-assigned tasks and fact gathering to keep your key decision team informed so that all messaging is calm, accurate, and realistically reassuring.

The number one priority is to first address all uninjured participants’ safety, wellbeing, and mental state.

The second priority is advancing the backup plan for the event. Once the decision is made to cancel the event, your team will begin using the pre-designated messaging channels including social media, your company website, and internal hotel channels to inform and instruct all participants. A key part of the messaging will include contact with family members and company employees outside the event.

The third priority is to address any outside media requests based on statements approved by key decision makers.

The crisis management plan for preparing for and mitigating a violent attack is one of your most powerful tools in constructing a meaningful resolution to these types of events. Despite the importance of this tool, when working with organizations time and time again, we find they are fully unprepared for addressing these emergencies. And why would they be? Most people never consider these as reality, but sadly, at Andavo we know meetings are one action away from profoundly altering an organization. Let us help you in preparing for these events to protect your participants, minimize your financial and legal exposure, and protect your brand.

Corporate Event and Meeting Crisis Management | Andavo Meetings & Incentives | Denver, Colorado

Risk is an inherent part of any meeting or event. While Andavo Consulting cannot prevent a catastrophe from occurring, our training and preparation process is built from helping companies plan meetings in over 75 countries over 25 years. We will impart the knowledge you need to prevent disruptions from turning into crises and to manage unexpected catastrophes that can happen to the flawlessly-planned event.

Our training is all about empowerment. We empower your team members to understand the foreseeable risks and prepare for risks you could never imagine. Our training leaves you with both tangible practices you can implement and the confidence to incorporate your risk management strategy as an integral part of your meeting and event design.

Need more information? Take our risk assessment survey to uncover how prepared your company really is to face a meeting or event crisis.

Ready to take the next steps in fully preparing for the issues that can emerge in setting up a fully functioning and well-prepared meeting? Please get in touch with us today!

6430 South Fiddler’s Green Circle, Suite 220 Greenwood Village, CO 80111
6430 South Fiddler’s Green Circle, Suite 220 Greenwood Village, CO 80111