While meeting planners work hard to pick the right destination for their program, an event likely won’t succeed if attendees fear for their safety, especially if a meeting is headed someplace with a troubled reputation. But event organizers are taking precautions, both in site selection and keeping attendees abreast of how to stay safe.
“Addressing safety concerns is as important for attendees as confirming agendas and meeting room locations,” says Sarah Buchbinder, meeting broker, Meetings Made Easy. “Speaking briefly to attendee concerns lets them know you are aware of security issues and have been proactive in addressing them. It also makes attendees feel comfortable coming to you if they feel distress.”
Adds Andrea Bauerfeind, director, Office of Scientific Meetings and Conferences, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, “We generally include a safety tip sheet in online portals and emails. We’ll also include a reference in announcements onsite. This allows us to address safety concerns while not calling out any specific issues. We treat every city the same, advising attendees on basics, like ‘walk in groups at night.’”
Meanwhile, Joyce Paschall, director of education and engagement, American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine believes attendees sometimes need planners, and their partners, to clarify a destination’s reputation. “I have had association members question the safety of particular cities based on either outdated beliefs or uninformed opinions,” she says. “This allows a planner to circulate information and data that provides a well-rounded perspective. Destination marketing organizations, such as convention bureaus, are very helpful in this regard.”
Notes Buchbinder, “I have seen safety come to the forefront of the site selection process in the past few years, but as long as planners take the have protections and emergency plans in place, attendees should be able to focus on their event and feel safe.”