E•Connections

For exhibit and event professionals  

Make Your Next Event Less ‘Eventful’

May 2, 2012 By Editor

The importance of safeguarding people and property at events.
A conversation with event security expert Robert Anderson

Exhibit and event professionals are busy people. Whether you’re organizing an event or preparing to participate in one, you have a million things to think about and coordinate — all the while keeping a watchful eye on your budget.

With all this going on, security is one item you may not consider. If you’re a show organizer, you expect exhibitors to be responsible for their own booths, personnel, attendees and speakers. If you’re an exhibitor, you may think a show organizer should bear the responsibility for all of the show’s security.

But the truth is, security is the responsibility of organizers and exhibitors. And not providing the proper amount can be a serious mistake. To find out more about the elements of security you need to consider and why, eConnections spoke with Robert Anderson, an expert in event security. Here’s what he had to say.

eConnections: What responsibility do event organizers have for security on the show floor?

Robert Anderson: Organizers are responsible for a safe, secure environment for any event. Consequently, there should be a complete security plan, since organizers will be exposed to liability if the plan has not been formulated, implemented and managed.

The focus of a security plan should be developed through the experience of event planners and local security, law enforcement and health professionals. And it should establish the security measures required to accomplish a balance between safety and convenience while effectively addressing potential threats. It also must outline how to protect delegates, guests, service providers, organizers, sponsors, partners, clients, attendees, media people, products and merchandise. Well-developed and well-managed security plans handle minor problems before they become major showstoppers.

eConnections: What should organizers do to minimize the risks associated with a loading dock?

Anderson: Issue colored wristbands for authorized personnel who will be loading and unloading freight containing exhibitor products. Also, ensure dock doors are closed and locked promptly at the completion of the hours of operation pertaining to the movement of freight through the loading dock doors. Assign security to watch over any containers left on the loading dock after normal hours of operation.

eConnections: How visible should security coverage be?

Anderson: The type of event, venue, clientele and attendees usually dictates the amount and type of uniformed security that is necessary. In some cases, security personnel in outlying security posts should be in full uniform, while entry points would have security officers in blazers. The key balance is to have applicable security presence without raising attendee concerns that the event may be unsafe due to an overwhelming security presence.

eConnections: If someone has a celebrity as an attractor for an exhibit, should he or she take extra precautions?

Anderson: Although most celebrities travel with an entourage of bodyguards and security personnel, security precautions still need to be incorporated for the security of the celebrity guest and exhibit attendees.

If possible, prepare a restricted access area to accommodate the celebrity, with a clear vantage point for event attendees, and assign a member of the security staff to monitor the area. If you anticipate a crowd, use materials such as stanchions, rope, signs, fences, or decals painted on the ground or floor to keep people safe and orderly.

eConnections: Is the same true for C-level management at corporate meetings?

Anderson: Security of C-level managers at corporate meetings begins with how willing they are to have personal security. If they request security or security is warranted, your security plan should address numerous issues, such as the location of the meeting, public access, the public image of the manager or company, the number of attendees, the attendance or participation of any high-profile or controversial people, disgruntled employees, angry stockholders, and disruptive demonstrations.

eConnections: What are some of the issues with corporate espionage?

Anderson: Corporate espionage has many forms. At an event or trade show, many companies unveil a prototype of a product for future introduction into the world marketplace. If theft of that prototype occurs, people usually think a worker at the venue stole it, but a thorough investigation could lead to evidence of corporate espionage.

Photographs, at an event or exhibit, are difficult to prevent, and with today’s technology of hidden cameras, photography is virtually impossible to detect. One solution is to place in a controlled access room any prototype or proprietary item on display. This allows viewing by approved clients only.

Hotel Security Tips

  1. If you feel uncomfortable in a situation, get out of it immediately.
  2. Make sure your office, spouse or a trusted associate/friend knows your itinerary and emergency contact numbers. Notify that person of any changes.
  3. Do NOT get into an elevator if you feel uncomfortable, and get out of any elevator if someone enters who makes you ill at ease.
  4. Have your room access card/key ready well before you get to your room.
  5. Inspect your room and make sure ALL door- and window-locking devices work.
  6. Read the security and emergency information in your room.
  7. Know where the nearest emergency exits are located and what to do in an emergency.
  8. If provided, never use the “Make Up This Room” sign.
  9. Use the “Do Not Disturb” sign and leave the TV on when you’re away from your room at night or after the maid has serviced your room.
  10. Use the “peephole/viewing port” to determine the identity of anyone at your door before opening it.
  11. If someone knocks at your door and says he or she is with the hotel but you did not request any services, IMMEDIATELY call hotel security, the front desk and/or the operator. Advise the person at the door that you have called the hotel management.
  12. Always use a cable lock for your laptop computer.

eConnections: What about your personal security at a hotel? Are there steps people should take when they check in?

Anderson: Generally speaking, hotels are safe, but remember various hotel staff members either possess or have the ability to access keys that allow entry into rooms and/or exhibit ballrooms. Hotels are 24-hour businesses, which means someone is always entering or exiting the building. This translates into access doors being left unlocked or ajar and gives opportunity to the untrustworthy element of our society. Most hotels do not have security cameras in common areas, so illegal entry resulting in damage or theft of property is not recorded. [For more hotel safety tips, see sidebar article.]

eConnections: With budgets extremely tight these days, how can exhibitors and show organizers justify the cost of security?

Anderson: Security can be costly, but you can get maximum value by putting money into marketable line items. Planning event security will always be a challenge. You can never know how much is too much, until, one day, you have too little.


Robert Anderson, CEO and founder of R. Anderson & Associates, LLC, has worked in law enforcement and major event security since 1972. He has been involved in security management of multiple Super Bowl events, the 1994 Presidential Summit of the Americas, the papal visit to Miami, corporate events for clients with national prominence and the 2003 “Centennial Celebration of Flight” in Dayton, Ohio. He has personally managed the elite security of celebrities, politicians and corporate executives.

Anderson’s training includes U.S. Secret Service Dignitary Protection, Law Enforcement Response to Weapons of Mass Destruction as taught at LSU and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Incident Command System involving major incidents. He also served on Florida’s Anti-Terrorist Task Force. Anderson is a retired major from the City of Miami Police Department and a retired law enforcement chief with the Florida Attorney General’s Office.

He can be contacted by phone at 865-740-1202 or via email at randersonassociates@comcast.net.








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