Security, Access and Logistics: Planning Large Events in a Turbulent World

5 Tips on Security and Access for Large Events from Gene Lundgren


Everyone responsible for putting together a large-scale event wants the venue to look great, the Wi-Fi to work well and the attendees to be as comfortable as possible, but another facet of event management is taking center stage these days: safety and security.

In the aftermath of tragedies such as the October 2017 massacre at a country music festival in Las Vegas, the many stakeholders in planning an event—including facility managers, production companies, general service contractors and third-party suppliers—are putting an even greater emphasis on safety and security. In some circles, this is known as “meeting defense.”

Event security and technology is constantly evolving and will evolve even more quickly going forward.

“Given the state of national security around the globe, it is imperative that the events industry concentrates on efforts to ensure the safety of attendees,” says the Events Industry Council.

So, what are event organizers using to ensure the safety of attendees?


  1. Facial recognition software

More and more events are turning to facial recognition software to step up security and improve the check-in process.

At the 2017 International Corporate Event Awards, known as the ICE Awards, about one-third of attendees gave permission for the use of facial recognition technology, according to the Event Manager Blog. One of the goals was to make sure that only registered guests would be let into the event.

Attendees who opted in stood before a camera and were identified in real time. If an attendee’s image matched an image that already was supplied, he or she was authorized to enter the event.

“Facial recognition technology is not meant to eradicate the human factor,” the Event Manager Blog says, “but it can enhance existing processes by improving efficiency, identification and convenience.”

Not only did the facial recognition technology help assure ICE Awards attendees about their safety, but it also was five times faster than barcode or QR code check-ins that had been used in the past, according to the Event Manager Blog.


  1. Security collaboration

In 2016, the International Association of Venue Managers, International Association of Exhibitions and Events, and Exhibition Services and Contractors Association launched the Exhibitions and Meetings Safety and Security Initiative (EMSSI).

In addition, the venue managers group has developed a safety and security certification program for convention centers to meet accreditation by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“Given the ever-present threats we face from acts of terrorism and other emergencies,” EMSSI officials said in 2016, “our industry requires a coordinated approach to protect our patrons, employees and economic resources that incorporates best-in-class security practices in collaboration with government partners.”


  1. Security dogs

Events big and small have gone to the dogs—literally.

For instance, at Mandalay Bay, the resort where the Las Vegas shooter was staying, four K-9 “officers” are available to boost convention security there or at any other MGM-run property in Vegas.

“In this ever-changing world with growing threats to our safety, Mandalay Bay is providing another level of protection for our guests and conventioneers,” a hotel flyer says.

The four specially trained and certified dogs can detect explosives during show load-ins and deliveries, as well as in show areas where suspicious packages and materials have been discovered.

Mandalay Bay isn’t the only organization that’s unleashing K-9 officers.

Shortly after the Vegas massacre, two security dogs from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department were present at the IMEX America convention at the Sands Expo and Convention Center. Organizers say the dogs helped attendees feel safer and also served as a deterrent to people aiming to do harm.

In fact, security/bomb-sniffing dogs have been used behind the scenes for years. “While working at a major convention hotel in New York, I went to the loading dock to retrieve some of my packages,” said Aquarian Executive Producer, Chris Cherek. ” I was met by an NYPD officer and his dog. Both were inspecting all the packages in the receiving area. And I was told they do these multiple times a day.”


  • 3A. Uniformed and plain-clothed security

The number of uniformed security, including contracted off-duty police officers, is growing as well. In addition to providing an obvious deterrent, many attendees feel more comfortable seeing a police presence at their event. The officers generally are posted in pairs at all major entrance points.


  • 3B.  Magnetometers/metal detectors

The use of Magnetometers/metal detectors has greatly increased over the last several years. Most any arena or sporting venue now includes their use as a screening device at all entrances. Use of these devices now includes convention centers, special event venues, and hotel ballrooms as well, though there is still a very wide disparity in their use.


  1. Loading dock access

In recent years, access to loading docks at various venues has tightened.

For instance, at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio, anyone seeking to enter through the dock must hold a dock pass issued by the dock master, according to the center’s loading dock policies and procedures. This includes decorators, stagehands and exhibitors.

For an event, the convention center provides one public security officer for the loading dock at no cost. That officer serves as the dock master.

Also, once exhibitors have entered the loading dock, they receive a dock control pass from the dock master. The pass shows the booth name and number, driver’s contact information and arrival time.


  1. Data security

While many of the security measures being introduced or improved at meeting venues are designed to physically protect people, event planners are also eyeing the security of data.

Planners now must be concerned with (and seek to prevent) the theft of data from registration systems, hacking of Wi-Fi and cellphone systems, attacks on attendees’ computers and other cybersecurity matters, according to PCMA, a network of business event strategists.

All of this requires better data transparency, compliance and security protocols for events, according to the Bizzabo Blog.

“Data security will surely be a significant topic to be debated upon not only within the events industry but in the world at large. Given how the live events industry is by nature a global business, it only makes sense for event professionals to lead the charge in being responsible, accountable and transparent with how they manage data across all platforms,” the Bizzabo Blog says.


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