Risk Management for the Delivery of Virtual and Hybrid Events

The first quarter of 2020 was an unusual one for the Event Industry, with many phrases and buzzwords appearing such as ‘pivot’, ‘new-normal’, ‘change factors’ and ‘reimagined’.  One thing is for sure, no matter the sector, all event organisers and vendors had to adapt to a sudden transition in their practices to ensure continuity for the Event Industry.  These changes also affected some of the approaches in supporting Event Risk Management.

The earlier virtual events may not have recognised or planned for some of the issues they experienced, as this was a new and unfamiliar landscape for many.  Events without physical attendees, production crew, show floor, etc. still have risk associated with activities, which could impact the reputation of the client and the event.

Types of Risks

Event organisers during the current climate may understandably identify the primary risks for their event as ‘Loss of API’s, cyber-security or inadequate failover’.  There is also a degree of physical risks associated with virtual and hybrid events, which should be considered and managed during both the planning and delivery phases.

Any Event requires some level of service from vendors, broadcast and/or studio facilities, power and network services, delivery platforms, content, facility security, social media monitoring, COVID management, etc.  It should be considered that not all risks are related to IT and delivery and event organisers should establish systems to mitigate against both virtual and physical risks

Mitigation Measures

How is risk mitigated in the virtual event environment ?, the answer is simple, adopt the same approach as is used in physical events, by using the five steps of risk management:

  • Identify the Risks
  • Analyse the Risks
  • Evaluate the Risks
  • Treat the Risks
  • Evaluate and Monitor the Residual Risk

This process should be managed and coordinated by a Risk Management Team in collaboration with all stakeholders, agencies, vendors and suppliers.  A Risk Analysis is undertaken with the development of a Risk Register and appropriate mitigation plans for probable identified risks.

In previous articles, we discussed the benefits of Total Risk Management and Centralised Event Control (CEC).  The same structured approach should be undertaken for virtual and hybrid events, by enabling a clear and concise management system for risk, critical incident, and crisis management.  There are two options in the current event delivery environment which are detailed below.

Physical CEC

This is an on-site CEC environment with communication links and resources as described in our recent article with more integration with the IT management team.  The Physical CEC is appropriate for Hybrid events where there is a degree of physical activity, studio operations, production and vendor staff, etc.

Virtual CEC

A Virtual CEC is remote (off-site) utilising a platform such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, etc and is recommended for a virtual event where there is no in-person interaction between the event delivery team, except within their own employment/operational ‘bubble’.

Key Essentials

There are many key essentials associated with a CEC in the Hybrid and Virtual Event environments, here are a few of the core elements that should be ensured in the current climate:

  • Operational Period – As part of overall risk mitigation the CEC should be implemented on a 24hr basis before the live days of the event.  This should become operational as the appropriate build/infrastructure implementation commences for the event.
  • Risk Register – A comprehensive Risk Register is developed as part of the risk analysis, with input from all stakeholders. The development of which is coordinated, managed and documented by the Risk Management Team.
  • Contingency Planning – Operational Contingency Plans (PlayBook) are developed based upon operational procedures, identified risks and organisational policies.
  • COVID Management Plan – As part of the risk analysis a COVID Management Plan will detail the implementation of all related control and compliance measures.
  • Event Control Team – A trained and qualified event control team should manage the CEC during operational periods.  This Team should be independent of the Event Planning & Delivery Team to allow independent oversight and functionality during any critical response.
  • Crisis/Critical Incident Team (CIC) – The pre-determined CIC team is comprised of key stakeholders and the Event Control Team.   This Team ensures measured & timely response to incidents and coordination with Corporate Departments and outside agencies/organisations.
  • Communications – A Communications Plan ensures effective communication between all departments and stakeholders during event operations and in the occurrence of critical/crisis incidents.

Moving Forward

None of these measures would be new in Event Risk Management, but they will only be effective with the support and facilitation from the Client Organisation/Event Owner.  The implementation of a CEC approach to any virtual or hybrid event provides undisputed benefits and peace of mind to planners.

How we Help

As a provider of risk management services, we at Powermill realised that it was necessary to review the now altered landscape with these event formats. The pandemic introduced new risks, and others that were previously considered less critical have now risen to prominence, so we adapted to:

  • Provide appropriate training and awareness in Risk Management and COVID awareness.
  • Develop the COVID Officer role into our risk management team.
  • Introduce the concept of a CEC for our clients virtual and hybrid events.
  • Assist Clients in developing good practice standards tailored for their activities.
  • Continuously review and assess the various COVID-19 testing systems available and how they could assist in the safe and successful management of events.