Planning for the unplanned:
How to limit your liability
By Qualena Odom-Royes, CSEP, CMP
By definition, liability is the state of being legally responsible for something or someone because of your failure to act. True, it may not always be our fault, but as super meeting planners we must take precautions to mitigate the potential liability at each of our events.
Here are some simple tips to limit liability.
Food & beverage
We know that a little bit of alcohol can get the ball rolling at an event. We also know that there will always be someone who has had one too many:
- Serve a signature beverage instead of having a full bar.
- Serve just beer and wine.
- Opt for a cocktail hour, which can reduce alcohol consumption.
- Use licensed bartenders.
Risk assessment & analysis
You spend months planning a meeting, so why not add risk management to your planning process? Plan with the possibility that anything and everything will go wrong. If it does, you're prepared:
- Conduct a risk assessment and analysis of your event and design a formal response plan.
- Share your response plan with your team members as well as the venue.
- Designate a team leader who can initiate the response plan, if necessary.
- Create your own event incident forms and have them available in the event of an emergency.
Following rules and regulations may be a pain especially when they can impact the design or function of your program. It's better to plan ahead to avoid unnecessary and unexpected expenses:
- Make sure your vendors are licensed and insured. Collect copies of their proof of insurance.
- Confirm that your event complies with all local and state regulations.
- Make sure your event complies with intellectual property rights (music licensing).
- Make sure that your events are ADA compliant (Americans With Disabilities Act).
Even if you follow all of these tips and double-check your lists to mitigate your risk and liability, you are still not fully protected. Business owners and independent planners should always go one step further and explore purchasing an insurance policy to protect themselves. Some of the more popular policies:
- Comprehensive general liability insurance typically covers property damage, bodily injury, medical expenses, damages to venues that you rent and personal and advertising injury. A separate replacement policy - equipment and contents - covers business equipment such as laptops and copiers.
- Errors and omissions or E&O insurance fills in some of the voids that comprehensive general liability insurance excludes such as negligence, misrepresentation and violation of good faith. E&O for event planners is like malpractice insurance for doctors.
- A Personal Umbrella Policy (PUP) provides liability coverage above and beyond your standard homeowners and car insurance. This coverage protects against large liability claims or judgments, kicking in where your other liability coverage stops.
Depending on your situation, there may be other insurance options for you to think about including workers' compensation, event cancellation, business interruption and disability insurances.
When all else fails, it is in your best interest to always have as backup plan.
To quote columnist Harvey Mackay, "When you fail to plan - you plan to fail."