Safe and Secure

By Christine Neuberger

Somewhere near the top of meeting priority lists, look for the issue of site security and safety.

Whether the gathering launches a product or focuses on long-term strategy, a company wants its team to feel safe to do the work they came to accomplish. “When we do a site inspection, I want to check out safety and security within and outside the hotel,” says Joan L. Eisenstodt, a meeting consultant and president of Eisenstodt Associates in Washington, DC.

During one event, an attendee’s chest pains helped lead the owners of Renaissance Meetings & Incentives Inc. to adopt the firm’s “safety first” philosophy, says LeeAnn Harle, joint managing director and co-owner of Renaissance Meetings in Dallas. That approach starts with the CPR training of the firm’s entire 22-member travel staff. Harle believes the lifesaving training distinguishes her company from other meeting-planning competitors. “I think of it as an edge for us,” she says. “We use it in selling. I’ve heard people say, ‘Wow, I’ve never heard that before.'”

The company’s emphasis on safety doesn’t stop there. Renaissance conducts comparative-risk-assessment studies of different destinations, depending on a client’s stated preferences. The risk study of any on-site logistics and other issues affecting attendees is a fixture in the Renaissance contract. But a client is free to decline the highly recommended service. For the assessment, Renaissance charges a nominal fee – roughly the cost of a coffee break, according to Harle. For a clientele that includes Seagram Americas, Parke-Davis, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, CompUSA, and Carrier Corporation, Renaissance has assessed hotel sites and event venues from the Far East to Europe. “Information is key. I think knowledge is power. With the assessment, we’ve done due diligence, and that’s better for everybody. This is why you buy insurance,” Harle says. Vendors don’t escape safety assessments either. Harle said she has passed on a ground transportation company because of its spotty safety record.

What if the client launches a new, highly confidential product? To safeguard proprietary information and equipment, Renaissance can provide protection. That includes protective services that a Renaissance partner supplies to ensure the security of product or people. Says Harle, “If a company’s VIPs are all at a meeting, it could cost millions of dollars in losses if something happened to them. That’s your brain trust. Most people go through life with an attitude that nothing’s going to happen to them. And this may sound dramatic and pessimistic, but things happen. We prepare for the unexpected.”