is no such thing as a risk-free event. “As event planners, we must
focus on managing risks and putting plans and processes in place for
those we can consciously and reasonably identify,” says Linda Robson,
associate professor for the School of Hospitality Management at Endicott
College (Beverly, MA). “If we are thoughtful enough, the risk
management plans we create can be applied to those risks, as well as the
ones we didn't see coming.”
Robson has more than a decade of
experience planning international academic conferences and has been
instructing courses on the topic of risk management for the past seven
years. She shares her process for avoiding or reducing the effects of
potential risks in these settings.
- Identify your own risk perceptions.
Ask yourself about the things that scare you most, and translate those
fears in a way that's applicable to your event. “You must be very aware
of how you look at the world,” Robson says. “I have an irrational fear
of snakes, so I know outdoor events come with added distractions.
Understand your personal risk perceptions and draw a line to determine a
tolerable risk level for yourself and your client.”
- Brainstorm potential risks.
Ask your client, staff, attendees and friends to generate a list of
potential problems that could arise at your event. Next, complete a
“mind-mapping” exercise in which specific elements of your event are
linked to potential risks. “Remember, one risk may be associated with
more than one element,” Robson says.
- Complete a probability and severity assessment.
Use resources like police reports, FEMA documents and insurance
companies to analyze the likelihood of a risk occurring and the
potential severity of the consequences. Robson's students create a risk
factor table in Excel that calculates an event's potential risks using
factors like probability and severity. Event planners must rank
probability and severity of risks on a 1 to 3 scale then multiply the
two numbers to determine the “total risk factor, or which risks have the
highest probability of occurring and which ones will cause the most
damage if they do.”
- Create a strategy to avoid, retain, reduce or transfer risks.
Risks can be avoided if a certain element is removed without affecting
the overall execution of the event. Risks can be retained when there is
no way of dealing with them until they occur. “Weather is a good example
of this,” Robson says. Employing prevention strategies, such as taping
down AV wires that could cause trips and falls, can also reduce risks.
Finally, risks can be transferred to outside contractors or insurance
companies, thus lifting the responsibility and transferring the risk to a
- Evaluate your risk management procedure after every event.
“Evaluation of your risk management plan is absolutely crucial to the
learning process,” Robson says. Be sure to note the failures and
successes in order to improve risk management at future events.
Linda Robson, Associate Professor, School of Hospitality Management,
Endicott College, Beverly, MA. Phone (978) 232-2059. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: www.endicott.edu