Keeping Cautious


by Kaitlyn Wallace

The early 2020s have shone a new spotlight on safety for meetings and events. Driven largely by a series of well-publicized tragedies like Travis Scott’s Astroworld Festival, in which eight concert goers died in a crowd rush, and the 2017 Manchester bombings of a large concert by pop artist Ariana Grande, the event-going public has increased pressure on planners and event management to scrutinize and uphold safety standards.

Of course, some of us may not be working on events with tens of thousands of attendees, but the scale of these incidents re-emphasizes the need for meeting and event planners to rigorously uphold industry standards and continue to evaluate safety strategies. As a guide, we have compiled a few major safety and security considerations to continue the conversation around responsibility, accountability, and protection of our clients and attendees.

Major Considerations

Crowd Control

One of the largest takeaways from recent meetings and events headlines is the importance of crowd control and attendance limitations for large-scale events. Physical barriers are often necessary for high-density events (such as outdoor concerts and festivals) and can help streamline check-in and event participation for large numbers of attendees. “Another thing that is helpful,” says Maria Davis, CMP, Director of Meetings and Partner Relations at Missouri REALTORS®, “is to require that everyone has a badge. That makes it really obvious, especially if you’re planning a costly event with open food and beverage, if there are any trespassers adding to the crowd. With big crowds, you also have to consider the medical aspect– locating the closest urgent care, finding out your location’s procedure in case of emergency, and connecting early with an onsite security official if there is one available.”


Perhaps one of the most important coordination points for large meetings and events is transportation. The first step to ensuring safe transportation for your event is to research your location’s surrounding area. For events in the state of Missouri, it is always a good idea to consult the Missouri STARS (Statewide Traffic Accident Records System) website, in which planners can research accident statistics while filtering by location, accident type, and time period. STARS statistics are available by report, by aggregate, and by map, and can be sent out for review to your attendees prior to your event. STARS is specific to Missouri, but many states have similar registries; though they are not nationally standardized, many have similar filtering and aggregation options. There is also a national census, FARS (Fatality Analysis Reporting System), which can help fill in some of the gaps left by state-by-state reporting differences. Consult these resources to get an idea of the types of safety measures that may be necessary for your location.

The next step in ensuring orderly traffic patterns is to consult with local law enforcement early in the planning process; this will ensure that planners have adequate time to prepare clear and concise directions to be sent out to attendees at least a week prior to arrival, to apply for temporary street or lane closure permits if necessary, and to ensure that all barriers and signage are ready before any attendees arrive.

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Crime and Law Enforcement

One of the most pressing concerns in meeting and event safety is the possibility of criminal interruption. The variety of possible safety threats may seem overwhelming for planners to protect against; from simple trespassing to individual-scale violent crime issues like safety from sexual harassment and property theft, to large-scale ideological violence – the possibilities for criminal interference may seem endless.

But planners do not have to– and in fact, shouldn’t– face this conundrum by themselves. Law enforcement and private security resources are both here to help. “Coordinating early on with law enforcement and private security is very important,” says Davis, “There are a lot of details; like anything else, it’s really important to keep communication lines open throughout the planning and execution. Let law enforcement take the lead in areas in which they have expertise, and always notify them if you have any particular security concerns, like a major VIP.”


Each event is different, and, unfortunately, security landscapes for each event will look different as well. “It’s so hard to generalize,” says Davis, “it’s important to customize your security plan to the different states and cities you’re planning in. Consult with the local CVB and law enforcement. Have an in-depth security conversation with your hotel or location early on; every hotel does something different.”

There is no one formula that can guarantee a completely safe meeting or event. Instead, safety and risk management planning are comprised of ongoing conversations and almost constant readjustments in conjunction with relevant stakeholders– including attendees, organizers, law enforcement, and the location’s surrounding community. On a macroscopic level, security and risk management needs to be an ongoing conversation within the meetings and events community, with evolving and stringent industry practice guidelines available for public commentary by a variety of participants. We, as organizers, have a great responsibility to protect and care for each other and our attendees. We can all do our part by continuing to spotlight safety and risk management and by continuing to rigorously evaluate our standards and those of our colleagues.


Kaitlyn Wallace is a contributing writer from St. Louis.

For 20+ years, the MEET family of products have provided regional and national resources that have kept corporate, association, medical, education, independent, and religious meeting and event planners informed about relevant vendors, industry news, tech innovations, and resources that impact and influence how and where they plan their group business.

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