The Dark Side of Meetings

By Christine Born, March 3, 2015

Beware of Dangers

Meeting staff and attendees put in long hours at conventions. They may have a drink, or several drinks, while socializing. They often go back to hotel rooms alone. It’s a formula for a potentially dangerous situation.

“It never ceases to amaze me that people think they can get away with what they could not do at work. They seem to lose sensibility.” —Michele Klopper, MK Meetings & Events

At one of Smith’s events, an audiovisual crew found an intoxicated female attendee riding up and down an elevator. The crew took the woman to her room safely. Not only was she vulnerable to an attack before being discovered, the case could have become a legal matter. “She had been way over served,” says Smith. “She could have claimed rape.”

Wallgren remembers an instance when a supplier was hitting on virtually anyone who was female. He was drunk, and the room was full of experienced industry professionals. “It was not a big deal for them,” says Wallgren. “Everyone was able to handle it. But, as a supplier there to do business, is he the guy I want to represent me?”

Yet, the industry as a whole rarely talks about these issues, despite obligations to employers, staff, sponsors and attendees. When was the last time a speaker opened a discussion about harassment? Or read show literature addressing behavior at the event? Or learned about gun control policies at convention centers?

Shawna Suckow, CMP, founder and head of both the Senior Planners Industry Network and its sister community for suppliers, The Hive Network, strongly believes that these controversial issues demand discussion, not only after hours, but also as part of regular programming.

“I remember back in the ’90s when I was a corporate planner, the CEO and all the VPs disappeared before the night of the big speech. I couldn’t get the information I needed for the talk because he and his boys’ club would go to his suite and get higher than a kite,” she says. “I would like to believe these things don’t happen as much as they did in the ’90s, but there are still strip clubs, and men disappear all the time in Vegas.”

What may change offensive and sometimes dangerous behavior is technology, which allows every action to be captured. “Everyone has a camera on them,” Wallgren points out, and photos or video clips can go viral, embarrassing organizations, turning away sponsors and clients, and causing attendance to drop at events.

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