As Special Events Eventline noted last week, many of the big DMCs profiled in the latest Special Events "25 Top DMCs" tell us that they have been putting greater focus on security planning in their work for clients (see the security Q&A with Jeff O'Hara of AlliedPRA New Orleans). For more on this crucial topic, here is a Q&A with Marty MacKay, DMCP, president of big DMC network Hosts Global Alliance, headquartered in Las Vegas. She shares how her team has developed a comprehensive approach to security to help keep events safe systemwide:
SPECIAL EVENTS: Are more clients raising the issue of security to you than they were five years ago?
MARTY MacKAY: Absolutely. And for those that are not, our DMCs are bringing the topic up to our clients to ensure there is effective communication for the "what if" situation.
SE: Do you find that most clients today are security-conscious, or do you have to stress security?
MM: Yes, clients are more security-conscious, and they want to ensure that the companies they are partnering with are also like minded and that they can formulate a plan prior to an event that identifies both triggers and communication plans.
SE: How have you developed your approach to security and risk management: Experience, consulting with security experts, other?
MM: Hosts Global Alliance has been a market leader on this front. Beginning last January, we realized there was a gap in the destination management industry on this subject and so we set out to fill that gap.
Working with an emergency preparedness firm, we created and launched a template that all our DMC members can use to ensure that they, proactively, have a plan in place. This industry-leading template has also been adopted by some of the large incentive houses.
In addition, we have held seminars for some of our association clients, including all their sponsors, to further the awareness and help educate on what steps should be taken.
Most recently, our HGA Global Forum included several expert speakers who addressed both clients and DMC members on emergency preparedness planning and communication.
SE: How has your approach to security at events evolved over the last five years? Are there threats you plan for now that were not such a concern five years ago?
MM: Sadly, the answer is yes. The biggest challenge is that you don’t know what that threat will be. It could be nature, human or cyber. So the best thing we can do it to talk about how to best prepare for all situations, even the one that you don’t know about.
SE: Can you share any anecdotes of how your security planning protected an event from a threat?
MM: I am actually very happy to not have an answer for you on this question!
SE: How much of any security plan can be a template (e.g., identify entrances, get emergency contacts) and what must be customized to an event?
MM: Much of the training and preparedness can be templated. And, if you train well enough, then things like knowing where the emergency entrances are at all times becomes second nature.
We just had a group, and one of the speakers asked all the attendees to close their eyes and then asked them to point to the nearest exit. You would be surprised how many got it right!
I think the most important part about security becoming ‘templated’ is that it becomes the norm to have the conversation prior to an event. And to be clear, the conversation cannot just be that everyone has a plan, but that you share those plans and you actually discuss who the decision makers are, who are the go to people, and ensure that all parties (client, hotel, venue, DMC, etc.) are working off the same plan!
SE: Have you seen the increased focus on security adding to the cost of special events?
MM: I believe this is the general direction that all special events are headed in. Just as you now need to move thru metal detectors to enter a stadium, the new norm will soon be that you do the same to enter into a convention center. Or for that matter, anywhere a large group might gather and especially if they are seen as a soft target.
A graduate of the University of Richmond, MacKay currently sits on the executive board of ADMEI.
See the full story in the Fall issue of Special Events.