How to Deal With Protesters at Your Meeting

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Have a plan in place for how to deal with protesters at your event.

In these politically turbulent times, protesters are a possibility that meeting planners need to face.

It’s important to have a plan in place for how to deal with protesters, as well as safety and security at your meeting. Just ask the planners of the citywide Dreamforce convention, which descended on San Francisco this week. A 14-ft-tall, 800-pound cage was wheeled down the street as part of a rally against Salesforce signing a multi-million dollar contract to supply software to the US Customs and Border Protection agency, known for separating children from their parents seeking asylum. Then, the tweets shifted from the conference’s content to the blimp overhanging Moscone Center with #failsforce on the side, a marketing tactic of competitor CRM firm Freshworks.

Consider these suggestions for protecting your company from the impact of protesters and for dealing with protests that occur.

Look Beyond Your Company

There are many potential sparks for protests, from controversial keynote speakers to less obvious triggers. “It could be the type of organization or company involved in sponsoring the event or promoting it,” says Jeff Kear, owner of Planning Pod, an online event management platform based in Denver, Colo. “Even exhibitors buying booth space at your event might attract some protest or demonstration.” Source: Meeting Professionals International

Follow Social Media

One of the first steps a security firm takes is to monitor all social media connected to a meeting. At Prevue’s Duty of Care Summit in May, former US Secret Service Executive and current SVP of Executive Protection at T&M Protection Resources Joe Russo spoke of instances where his firm had intercepted potential threats from social media that could have been harmful to his clients’ meetings.

Control the Narrative

Just because people start waving signs on the street, that doesn’t mean you have to rush out and hold a press conference. However, it’s advisable to have trained public relations spokespersons available to comment. Source: PR Daily

Have a Crisis Management Plan

A crisis management plan should address specific actions that would be taken in the event of a protest. It also ensures that key audiences are kept informed.

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Barbara Scofidio is Editor of Prevue and heads up the Visionary Summits, our exclusive conference series targeting senior-level meeting and incentive planners. In her 30 years in the industry, she has become known for her passion around greening meetings, growing awareness of human trafficking and promoting CSR activities as part of business events. She is currently a member of SITE's Women IN Leadership committee and the media liaison for FICP's Education Committee. She was the first member of the media ever to be invited to sit on a committee by GBTA, where she spent three years on the Groups and Meetings Committee. She has also been an active member of SITE for 30 years, chairing its Crystal Awards committee and acting as a judge. Before joining Prevue in 2014, she served as Editor of Corporate Meetings & Incentives (MeetingsNet) for more than 20 years. She has a BA in Literature/Rhetoric from Binghamton University. Barbara is based outside Boston, in Groton, Mass.