Conference ‘What Ifs’?

What if there was an active shooter in a convention zone?

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We all now know IT can happen anywhere, and every time it does the very first person interviewed says “Gosh, we just never thought it would happen to us ‘here [fill in the blank].”

And yet it does, and the reality is it will continue.  I’m not saying we should get used to it.  I’m just saying we should no longer believe that anyplace, ANYPLACE/NOPLACE, is a safe haven from active shooter instances, and that includes the meetings and events that are the lifeblood of the hospitality industry in which I work.

How clear this is becoming was recently brought home to me during a pre-conference education session hosted by my client in which they brought in a security expert to talk to the staff about the ‘what ifs.’

Did you copy that pre-conference reference?  

Yeah.  It’s no longer enough for us to include risk management issues (think tripping over microphone wires in a meeting room or conducting a program with standing room only spaces filled to the max causing blocked exits), comprehensive and expensive insurance riders (ever seen a CEO jump on a mechanical bull while perhaps drinking a tad too much?) along with special training/lectures on sexuality issues in the workplace, providing a list of hurricane or weather related evacuation procedures, and special instructions on using/not using your ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign once in your hotel room. Oh, and I’ve already written in this blog about the ever-lengthening list of all the food issues with regards to allergies, special diets and meal requests.

But now it’s come to the point that meeting planners need to include some kind of nod to the potential of having an active shooter show up at our meeting or event and start the dialogue about how to react, as if people can actually be trained in advance for the sheer terror that would bring. . .

Anyway, during that recent session my client provided about what to do if an active shooter were to show up, the only note I actually wrote was quoted as follows:  “Anything can be used as a weapon in the fight for personal protection.” As the security expert spoke I glanced down at the clipboard in my lap – viewed as a standard job tool by most meeting planners – that I was now viewing as a potential means of meager personal protection “in case of. . .”

And then I just shook my head and shut it down.

That’s not to say I’m turning a blind eye to any of this because I do make my living as a planner, and successful planners have to consider all kinds of ‘what ifs.’ In the past, those usually reflected slightly more frivolous activities such as What if we’ve misspelled some names on the badges?  What if it rains?  What if the chauffeur doesn’t locate our VIP in the airport?  What if we run out of meatballs?  What if the speaker goes longer and our ice cream break is all melted?

You see where I’m going with this ‘important’ planner checklist of what ifs?

I’m not exactly sure where to insert ‘what if a shooter breaks into the ballroom while our meeting is in session’  in my checklist.

Sigh.

That kind of trumps the importance of all else, but apparently this is where we’re headed.  And already in my industry there are many webinars, training sessions, articles being published about dealing with the ‘what ifs’ that could be up ahead for us all.  The below is just one example of how to start the necessary and inevitable dialogue.

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Just your average middle age gal trying to deal with career/life/family changes and issues while studying people and places, one lobby bar at a time.