Put Security on the Agenda for This Year’s Annual Meeting

Guest post by Tucker Greco – PlanetData, and Kevin Gors – PlanetData and Seal-Mar Protection Services

With unemployment continuing to rise, life savings being lost and no end in sight to global economic woes, people are becoming increasingly worried and desperate every day. Combine this with anger over bailouts, bonuses, fraud and stock market losses, and you have an environment in which corporate executives must take careful steps to protect themselves, their employees, and their companies from the possible actions of someone looking to take out their frustrations. One place in particular where a new heightened security posture should not be overlooked is a large corporate meeting, particularly an Annual Meeting.

This year these vital company events will be held in a negative economic atmosphere not seen in generations. And whether the potential for trouble comes from former or current employees, investors, labor unions, protesters or the media, special attention should be paid to security in order to ensure a safe and successful meeting.

Look around the globe and you will find no shortage of examples of how potentially volatile an annual meeting could be this year. In the last several months there have been protests outside the U.S. offices of American International Group (AIG), Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo and Bank of America. Death threats have even been made against AIG executives and their families.

In France there is a new phenomenon dubbed "bossnapping" as evidenced by two recent high-profile incidents. In the first, the CEO and HR Director of Sony's French subsidiary arrived at a plant to discuss impending layoffs and were taken hostage by employees angry about the proposed severance packages. Only after agreeing to participate in another round of negotiations with labor leaders were the executives released. In the second, a 3M executive was held against his will by disgruntled workers until he signed a deal to renegotiate terms for laid-off workers.

Again in France, irate employees of German tire company Continental AG hung their bosses in effigy, stormed into a corporate meeting and pelted their managers with eggs in protest of the proposed plant closure.

These incidents highlight how quickly a large corporate gathering could become dangerous. And this sort of pent-up, anti-business outrage will most likely continue to present itself around the globe as people vent their anger at corporations, management and boards of directors.

So why take unnecessary chances with any upcoming corporate meetings? Consider reviewing current security measures with your own security professionals to see what else you might do to maintain order and safety at your next meeting. The possibility exists that under this unprecedented set of economic circumstances there might be a hostile ex-employee, an angry labor organization, a disruptive investor or someone protesting against executive compensation at your meeting – so plan now for a successful and safe event.

Here are several suggestions to consider when preparing for your meetings.

1. Do your intelligence work. Review complaints made to your company and identify those who may attend the event. Monitor public information sources (media, investor and employee blogs, etc.) well in advance of your meeting. Ascertain if there appears to be an attempt to raise tensions prior to the event and if so, attempt to identify the individuals responsible. Is it a disgruntled employee or labor group? A reporter with an agenda, or someone trying to "create" a story?

Liaison with other organizations who have faced similar potential problems at their events and obtain from them a list of any individuals who were problematic, arrested, etc. Make sure all who are responsible for security at this event are made well aware of who these individuals are, what threat they possibly represent and how you and your legal department would like any problems with them resolved.

2. Do your counter-intelligence work. Once potential problem areas have been identified, efforts should be undertaken to get your position out there. Attempt to lower tensions by communicating via letters to the Editor, Op Ed pieces, blog postings, newsletters, your website, etc. that the company is receptive to addressing concerns and is looking forward to a positive event where solutions and future plans for addressing existing problems will be discussed.

3. If you are hiring a security company for the event, make sure you do a thorough background investigation on them for sufficient experience with these types of events, past complaints, lawsuits, current licenses and sufficient insurance coverage. This is not the time to hire the "lowest bidder". You do not want your security provider creating or becoming an additional problem or liability.

4. Coordinate your security with local law enforcement, fire and emergency service providers to develop a Crisis Management Plan. Emphasis should be on your security being able to "hold the line" for a short period of time should any problem present itself, but then the situation being completely turned over to Emergency Responders for ejections, arrests, evacuations as soon as possible. Your security should then plan on reverting to a support role to minimize your company's liability and any negative exposure.

5. Provide sufficient time for training the personnel involved and for conducting several dry runs with scenario-based training exercises. You want to ensure everyone is on the same page as to the security goals and procedures for dealing with any potential problem and that proper communication structures exist and work.

6. Properly secure all venue areas the day before the event and ensure enough resources are devoted to keeping it secure from then to the end of the event.

7. Finally, understand friendly crowds can become angry mobs in the blink of an eye if not handled correctly.

There are many dynamics to ensuring a safe event, but the two most important ones, particularly in these economically tense and personally trying times, are competent staffing and adequate preparation.

PlanetData – The Security News Network

Seal-Mar Protection Services

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