Event Planning with a Security Mindset – Protecting the Best Podcast Episode 1

Introducing the Protecting the Best Security Podcast

The Protecting the Best Security Podcast is here! Episode 1 covers planning for special events with a security mindset! Event planning doesn’t have to be as daunting of a task when you have a security company that is a real partner for your event’s success.
Check out Episode 1 here on Youtube and Subscribe to our YouTube Channel to receive future episodes to your subscription box!

Podcast Transcription

Robert McGowan: Hello everybody and welcome to the Protecting the Best Podcast. My name is Robert McGowan. I’m the operations manager at OPS Security Group.
Ian Poush: I’m Ian Poush. I’m a partner with OPS Security Group.
Robert McGowan: On today’s topics we’re going to cover special event security planning and also event season and what to look for and things that you should be adding to your checklist when coming to plan a special event this season.
Ian Poush: Bob, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself, OPS, how you got involved with the company.
Robert McGowan: I started off with OPS working as a security officer out in the field, working not only at the front desks but also in the event sector and armed and investigative work. From there, I had the opportunity to come work in our headquarters as the Operations Manager, where I headed up the planning and implementation of all of our special events in the company, as well as handling project management and day to day operations.
From there, I’ve had the opportunity of working in a couple different roles including personal development as well as growing within our operations team.
Ian Poush: Yeah, six years Bob. Six years. Still no ring. I don’t know what’s going on. Six years. Maybe one day.
Bob’s been a great addition to our team since he’s been here. His growth in the company has been wonderful. The company’s growth itself has been wonderful.
I’m a partner at OPS Security Group. I’ve been involved in the company since inception. Prior to that, I’ve got about 20 years of working in private security in pretty much every facet of the industry. From security to investigations to executive protection and anything that you could really think of.
The Protecting the Best Podcast was an idea that came about because we looked at our industry and while we were a different in the industry, we were thinking about what the industry might be lacking. We didn’t think that there was anything really delivering information in a way that our clients or the general person out there who isn’t super security focused could absorb or take in. We saw a lot of great podcasts and there are a lot of great podcasts, I’m not saying there’s not a security podcast out there because there certainly are. There are some really, really good ones. But they’re really directed at people who are already in the industry.
So we were wanting to take some of the information, some of the subject matter knowledge that we had and give our expertise and our expert opinions out to people who maybe don’t have the same subject matter knowledge or expertise.
Robert McGowan: On today’s podcast we’re definitely going to start going into a good amount of detail in our planning processes and how to plan for special events and event season and some things that you should be thinking about. Like Ian mentioned, there are a lot of great pieces of information out there, but they’re not really directed at our clients and the individuals who were planning these events.
So we figured we could come on here and talk to you guys about how and what we look at when we’re working with clients and planning events and how we plan events ourselves.

Why Event Planners Need to Include Security at Events

Ian Poush: So I think the first question we really have to ask, or have to answer I should say, is why. Why security at events?
Well, for those of you who are planning events or looking into planning events. Or maybe you have a venue that hosts events. Why security at events is an obviously one, because you need it. It doesn’t have to be super nefarious. We’re not here to spend today to talk about active shooter events or acts of terrorism. Those are very extreme things that while they do happen, they’re not nearly as frequent as some of the other things that you will need security for when you’re hosting an event.

Ultimately though, you’re responsible for your guests.

That’s why security at events.
You’re a good event planner. You’re a good venue. That’s why security at events.
You want your event to go off without a hitch. You don’t want your event to be a negative social media post. That is why security at events.
Robert McGowan: What we’re hoping to do today and hoping that you guys will take away from this is from our side and our industry, sometimes security is the last thing people think of when they’re planning an event and sometimes that’s not always the best for them. So we’re hopefully, at the end of this, you can take away that security should probably be one of the top line items at your event and reaching out to any security vendor a week, days, even in some cases months before is not an adequate time frame in order to vet and work with a security company that’s going to be delivering high quality service to your event.
Ian Poush: It’s funny that you used the phrase “line item” there because ultimately security, it does not have to be a line item. If security’s a line item to you, then you probably selected the wrong vendor or you probably have the wrong idea of what security should be doing or could be doing for you.
Security should be an absolute value for your event. You have to think of it this way. When people attend, it doesn’t have to be a large scale event, it could be a small event. But even large scale events. What is the first real interaction they have with that event outside of purchasing their ticket? It’s with security. What’s the last interaction they have with that event? Security. So your first and last impressions lie with security and their lie with your security vendor.
So you really want to be looking at security as part of larger plan, a part of a larger way to promote your event at a value for your event, rather than a line item. Now is it a line item? Yes, of course. You have a budget. You don’t have an event venue to not make money. Obviously you have to keep the lights on, you have to keep your employees working and things of that nature. But, security can absolutely be a value.

Choose a Security Company That’s Going to Add Value to Your Event

Robert McGowan: As Ian said, the value and the right security company that’s going to bring that value to you is going to bring much more to the table than just being the first person and the last person that your guests see.
I’ll take for example the way that we do operations with our company. We’re not just that first person you see and the last person you see when you come in and leave. We are there to assist and help out with any other needs that fall within the security realm. So if you have incidents, whether they’re an altercation or a medical emergency, our staff are trained and have the capabilities to respond and assist in those types of situations. Some companies might only be able to just be there and say hi and goodbye when people show up.
So those are things that you want to consider. What is that security company’s capabilities. If you’re unsure of what their capabilities are, feel free to ask them. Feel free to ask for references. Talk to other event planners that have worked with them. With my experience with working with OPS, all of the event planners that we work with all know each other and they’ve all basically have referred OPS to one another just from the experiences that they have working with us.
So if you’re unsure of a company or you think they’re telling you something that you’re not really sure if you believe it or not, feel free to ask for references. Feel free to reach out to other event companies or vendors or clienteles that they’ve worked with in the past.
Ian Poush: Or ask them what events they have coming up. It wouldn’t hurt to actually see them in action. You don’t have to tell them you’re going there. You can just go there and get a real feel for the vendor you’re working with.

You never plan to fail, you fail to plan. If you include security in your plan from the beginning, it’s going to give your event a much greater chance at success and give your future events a greater chance of success.

Now, of course that requires you to spend some time in advance thinking about this. But security shouldn’t be that last phone call. It should be, realistically, one of the first couple of phone calls that you make because they’re going to shape a lot of how the event flow is going to go and I think you’d be very surprised.
There’s a big misconception, I think, in our industry and it’s one of my biggest problems with how the industry is viewed. You either get the cartoon character called Blart Mall Cop or you get the stereotype of an aggressive doorman at a nightclub. Neither of those, for the most part, are accurate. But it is what people think about initially when they think about security and it could be much, much more than that. That’s why you never plan to fail, you fail to plan. So if you include security in your actual plan from the beginning, it’s going to give your event a much greater chance at success and give your future events a greater chance of success.

Start With an Honest Assessment of Your Event

Robert McGowan: Exactly and when you’re going through, and this all starts when you’re planning your event.
All of these topics that we’re going to cover all start from ground zero which is an honest assessment of the event that you yourself, as the client, are planning. Before you even reach out to a security company or before you even start having conversations with them. You guys need to have an honest assessment and a plan of what the event is, the location, all of the particulars. Anticipated guests, what the ticket setup is going to look like. Is there going to be VIP areas or is it all going to be general admission.
Ian Poush: Yeah where’s your layout.
Robert McGowan: In some cases, I’ve seen events that there’s six to seven different levels of VIP and then there’s GA. So you have to figure out all of these things, obviously, in your planning.
All of this should be laid out before you even start talking to security companies because those are going to be some of the very detailed questions that you’re going to get. What does the layout look like? Where is the venue? What are your start and end times? What is the admission breakdown, is it all GA, is there different types of VIPs? You want to have all of that stuff set up, as well as putting it on a map so the companies that you’re talking to are going to be able to take a look at those things.
Ian Poush: If you’re unsure, that’s the beauty of talking to a security vendor early.

One of my favorite questions from a client perspective is “What do you think?”

If you’re unsure, one of my favorite questions from a client perspective is what do you think? We’ll be more than happy, and a good security vendor will be more than happy to offer insight because ultimately the success of your event should be important to them too. They should be invested in the success of this event because events, if they are successful, are repetitious and business, if it’s successful, is repetitious. It’s good for them if your event goes off without a hitch. So they should want to take the time and the time investment into answering those questions and that, “What do you think” question is a great question. You’re asking for help from somebody.
I don’t care if you have one year, one month or 10 years in the event planning industry. It’s always good to get fresh insight from people. You might not always go with it, sure. But it’s good to get that fresh insight.
Robert McGowan: Yeah and this all goes back to, like we’ve said a couple times now, is giving yourself enough time to not only plan the event but also giving yourself enough time to vet the security company that you’re working with.
If you find any security company the week of your event, you’re not going to be able to have access to the type of things that we’re talking about. If you reach out to them four weeks, even more in advance, you’re going to be able to have multiple planning meetings with them and sit down and really hash out exactly what you’re looking to do and really get that feedback like Ian was talking about.
If you come to any security company, ourselves included, the week or the day of, or a couple of days before the event. We’re not going to be able to give you that insight because at this point we’re just trying to see if we’re able to fulfill the services that you’re coming to us and requesting. That’s for every company, that’s not just for us.
When you are vetting a security company, there’s a couple of things that you want to look at. Obviously, like we mentioned before, you want to look at their history. Do they have experience working these types of events specific to what you’re look at? Do they have experience working events at all?
There’s a lot of companies out there that specializing in very different types of security. A company like OPS Security Group, we like to stretch our wings into multiple difference facets of security. So that’s a good question to ask, have you guys done these events before? Have you done events where alcohol is being served? Have you done events where there’s an over under, meaning is there 21 plus and under 21, both at the same event?
Asking those questions in the initial vetting process can be crucial in understanding if this company is going to be the right fit for what your needs are.
Ian Poush: Yes. Events have so many different kinds. Have you done corporate events? Corporate events more and more now are seeing an increase security presence because they realize they need that. In the world that we live in today, a lot of times corporate entities, depending on what they’re doing business in, become targets.
Again, like I said, it doesn’t have to be the deeply nefarious things. Your active shooters, the things like that. But if you’re having a corporate event and you’re inviting stakeholders or partners or firms that you want to be partners with to your event and you have protesters show up and your security company doesn’t have a protester protocol in place because they didn’t discuss that with you or they didn’t do their research to see what the buzz was out there. Or they didn’t talk to the police and find out if there were any permits issued for protest or things like that. Then you’re going to look very, very bad to these partners or to these stakeholders or to these potential partners, that’s even worse. They’re not going to want to be a partner at risk because they’re not going to want that bad publicity.
But if you selected a right vendor who takes the time to actually ask questions and looks at your true needs and how this can be done, then you’re going to find a security vendor that’s going to make your event go off without a hitch. They’re going to be that value that it talked about. Sometimes they can even work within your event and no one even knows that there’s security.

Make Sure Your Security Company Has Experience With Your Event’s Clientele

Robert McGowan: Yeah. Clientele vetting is very important. Understanding what your guests are going to be coming into that event is invaluable to us on the security side because we’re going to take that information and we are going to put who we believe are the best officers for that event. Like Ian said, if it’s a corporate event, we might actually be pulling from more of our dynamic officers who have experience working the higher end events. But if it’s just, for example, a summer beer fest. We might assess the clientele a little bit differently and bring a different caliber of officer to those events.
Although events are in some way, shape or form similar, they’re never the same and they always are going to have different clientele and are always going to require a different level of officer. So having that ahead of time and presenting it to the security companies that you’re working with is invaluable because you’re going to be able to assess that company’s ability to fulfill that service based off the information that you’re giving them.
Many events too, when you’re vetting your security vendor. A lot of times events are geared towards very specific demographics. Does your security vendor know how to work with those demographics.
Ian Poush: What I mean by a specific demographic. A lot of your events may be catered to particular religious groups, people from a certain part of the world, socioeconomic groups. Understanding those specific demographics is important and asking your security company if they’ve worked with those demographics before can get you a yes or no answer that may or may not be accurate. But asking them what their cultural sensitivity programs are like, who’s going to get you a decidedly different answer and I think that you’ll be able to judge off that answer whether it’s accurate or not and whether that answer’s going to suffice for that event because that’s important.
Again, understanding who the guests are, who this event is for is important for the security staff who is working those events because they’re the first and last people everyone sees when they come to that event. They can make or break that event for you.

Event Security Requires Officer Training to Meet Standards

Robert McGowan: Employee training and the security trainings that are available to the employees when it comes around event work is crucial. Some companies tend to just put all their employees through a basic training and that’s really it.

All OPS security officers are going through our training and working at our events all have CPR, first aid and AED training and all have deescalation training.

With OPS, we do things a little bit differently. All of our officers are going through our training and working at our events all have CPR, first aid and AED training and all have deescalation training. If you’re talking with security companies out there for events, ask them those two questions. Do your officers have CPR and AED training, first aid training and do they have deescalation training. In my experience, if they can’t answer those two questions or the answers to those two of those questions are no, I would look elsewhere because clearly that company might not be best equipped to handle the needs that come with doing special event type security.
Ian Poush: Special event security is dynamic. It’s changing, it’s fluid. You can insert a bunch of catchphrase words right there and they will accurately describe special event security.
The training for it has to be that way as well and it has to be continuing. Ask them what their training schedule is. Most won’t be able to give you an answer. If they’re not doing follow up trainings with their staff outside of re certifying them in CPR every two years, is that who you really want working your event? Is that who you really want being a first and last impression for your guests? Probably not.
Some may say yes. Good luck at your events to you. But most probably wouldn’t want that.
Robert McGowan: Yeah and I think once you guys have that vetting process done, and we always recommend talking to a couple of different companies. Obviously if you go with UPS, you’re going to be working with the best.
But for those of you that might not have access to us, feel free to reach out to a couple of different companies. Like I said, there are a lot of different companies that service very specific needs within the security industry, not everybody does events. So that’s always something to consider when you’re talking to different companies is do you guys do events and if you do, how often, how frequent are you doing them. Like Ian said, ask them for what their schedule is for the summer.
I can tell you from OPS’s perspective, pretty much from April until about October, we are nonstop running. Working various types of events from the small little corporate events all the way up to some big name events.
Ian Poush: Major marathons and things of that nature.
Talk to other event planners, big and small. Don’t just talk to event planners who are in your niche area of the event world. Talk to other event planners in the big and small events and see what they have to say.
Ask them who they use and ask them who to talk to at the company that they use so that you have a direct line and you can get these questions answered a bit quicker, especially if you’re in a time crunch

What the Event Security Planning Process Looks Like with OPS Security Group

Robert McGowan: So for the sake of this conversation and this podcast today, we’re going to assume that you went out and picked OPS Security Group which is arguably the best. Absolutely.
So you guys decided to go with us. What does our planning process look like once you’ve determined to go with a security company and that’s what we’re going to talk about now is what that planning process should look like with vendors and some of our experiences with planning that really didn’t go that well.
So I’ll let Ian start it off with what his perspective is when it comes to planning with our vendors once we’ve decided to work with them.

We start with the who, what, when, where, why.

Ian Poush: When we get the initial calls for planning some security events or planning for an event, we’re going to ask several questions. Your who, what, when, where, why, hows of the role are definitely going to be asked and then there’s going to be some more minutiae questions on that. Those minutiae questions are really, really important. Those are the things when your security vendors, when we’re asking you a question, that’s when I talk about that what would you do or who would you use or how would you do this. Asking those questions back to them and getting some feedback. You might get some insight for something that you hadn’t thought of.
Ultimately it is your event and you’re going to do it and you have a vision for it and you’re going to want to follow that vision. Most of the time security is able to work around your vision. But they might have a better plan for you as well too.
Robert McGowan: That’s perfect and a great segue for me because I can tell you from my experience, with meeting with clients and looking at their plan and their plan that they drew together and spend many months putting together. Coming in and being able to be an asset to our clients and not just rip away what they’ve spent a very long time putting together is always a great value to have.
In my experience, I’ve had really great clients that come to us and say, “This is what our plan is. What do you guys recommend”? That allows us to be able to honest and open with what we need in order to fulfill your type of event.

We give an honest assessment to our clients that works with their vision

Now, like Ian said, we don’t always want to come in and start ripping things apart and saying that you have to move this or move that. But when a vendor comes to us and says, “I want your honest assessment”, we’re obviously going to give that to our clients. What that looks like when we’re assessing our clients events is what does your layout look like, what does your egress and ingress points look like. Those are always some of the big concerns when we first take a look at these layouts that our planners and our clients have put together.
Sometimes they have great intentions and they look great on paper. But once we get to put eyes on it and take a look at it, we realize that if there ever was an actual emergency or there needed to be a mass egress from that event, that setup that they have is not going to work. So that would be one of the things we’d first take a look at is what does that setup look like for your in and outs. Whether its one singular location that you have your entrances and exits or, in some cases with some of our larger events, there could be multiple entrances and exits.
So when you put that layout in front of us and we take a look at it and we start asking those very point questions, it’s not us trying to be difficult and put down all the hard that you’ve done. It’s just we’re coming from…
Ian Poush: Different perspective.
Robert McGowan: Coming from a different perspective, our experience is a little bit more on what’s the reality of what a layout like this is actually going to look like and is this layout actually going to work. It may look great and it may give a very nice flow experience for the guests coming in. But if there was any sort of an emergency, that entire egress and ingress point is just going to be nothing but a big roadblock.
Ian Poush: Not even emergency. Let’s even go before an emergency happens or if an emergency doesn’t happen.
If you’re going to end up having a roadblock and you have a security vendor who says, “You only have five points of entry here at this main entrance area. You really should expand that to seven”. Yes it’s going to require two more staff or four more staff, depending on what exactly you’re doing. They should be able to give you a rough number of, that’s going to speed up because it’s going to take 15 seconds to process to do this, this and this and get the tickets done and get the people in. So if we’re 15 seconds and we only have five spots here, they’re going to be able to break that down in real numbers for you. So you have an expectation of how quickly guests are going to be able to get in to your event and also out.
Robert McGowan: Exactly. The vetting process, just as we’re focusing on that initial entry and exit point, the vetting and screening process of your event. Every event’s going to be different but that is always something we are going to ask.
With today’s day of age and the volatility of what the world is today, we’re always going to be asking what level of screening process do you want. Do you want the individuals to just come in and the officers are just there or do you want a full on, I don’t want to say TSA style screening. But something that is a little bit more thorough than most events that people are used to.
So that’s going to be something that you and your team need to get together and plan and figure out what’s going to be best for your event that you’re working on.

The Success of Your Event Impacts Your Reputation and Your Future Career

Ian Poush: How successful do you want your event to be. How successful do you want to be in the events industry too.
Having a vendor who’s going to provide you insight doesn’t make them a vendor anymore. It makes them a partner. It makes them an asset to you who’s going to be able to give you information to make your event a success.
I, like I said, I’ve been doing this about 20 years. I have yet to come across a event planner who, when asked or when is looking at security, if they don’t take seriously, they’re still in the industry. They’re not in the industry anymore. They’re not successful, they’re not long term. Their entities or companies they’ve set up are not long term either. They’re in and they’re out. They either just fizzle out because they’re planning on the other ends and the other aspects of their event isn’t up to par. Or they have an event, they plan poorly with security, something happens and they have major liability from civil lawsuits and things like that.

But not only that, anything you do today could be on YouTube in less than minute and that is going to be the case. What is the social media cost of something like that. How’s that going to affect their business long term. Are event venues going to want to work with them.
The answer’s no. It’s no.
Robert McGowan: Expectations are massive. What is your expectation of your security company that you’re working with.
That is going to be one of the very first things we are going to ask you if we are fortunate enough to work with you is what are your expectations of the officers. What would you like them to be doing. What would not like them to be doing.
From there, that conversation can just spread, it can really go anywhere at that point depending on the type of the event, the clientele and guests, how the event is being run. There’s a lot to be covered there and I think that’s one of the things that your team prior to should have a good understanding of what that looks like. It doesn’t have to be completely set in stone. But some questions would be are tickets only being sold in advance? So, is every person who’s coming in already purchased their ticket online. Are there any tickets being sold at the door? If yes, are they doing credit cards and electronic payment options or is there cash being exchanged.
If cash is being exchanged, that is something that you’re going to want to let your security company know that that’s happening. In my experience, sometimes with some of the clients that we work with that are doing that cash exchange, they want an escort at certain times during the event to take the cash to another secure location. Things that have to be considered.
Well that was a lot of information we covered and hopefully some of it was valuable to you and hopefully you guys were able to take away some key little pieces of information that can help all of you when it comes to planning your big special event, summer event, small event, large event, corporate event, whatever it might be.
Just remember, like we talked about today, that checklist. Make sure you plan out your event yourself before you meet with your security team. Get together with your planning team. If it’s just you, sit down, figure out exactly what you guys needs to be doing as far as the expectations of the event, admissions, number of guest, the clientele of the guests that are going to be coming through. Have all of that ready to go before you start talking to security companies.
When reaching out to security vendors, reach out to a couple of them. Make sure they can also handle what a special event entails. Ask those questions.

You’ve got to vet your security vendors

Ian Poush: You got to vet them. You got to vet them.
Robert McGowan: Yeah, ask those questions. If you’re not sure, reach out together another company because like we said before, not every company does special events. Even a caveat to that, not every company is very good at special events. So make sure you ask them what their schedule looks like for that season.
Finally, once you pick a security company that you’re happy with working with, get ready to really dive into the nitty gritty and the details of your specific event pertaining to your layout, your admissions process, your ingress and egress points, expected number of attendees, are you selling tickets at the door, are you selling them online. Any sort of secondary or ancillary things that are going to be occurring during the event [crosstalk 00:27:46].
Ian Poush: Get as granular with it as you feel humanly possible.
Robert McGowan: If the security company that you’re working with is not asking those in depth questions and all they’re asking is how many officers do you need and what the layout looks like and what are the stop and end times. I might want to take a step back and look at other companies because there is so much more to these events that, unfortunately we weren’t able to cover them all today. There’s a lot more that we can dive into and hopefully in the next couple of weeks you’ll see part one, two, three, four of our special event summer season podcast on special event security, where we cover a lot more in depth topics of the different types of events that can be out there in the special event [inaudible 00:28:26].
Ian Poush: We’re going to cover a lot with the Protecting the Best podcast but I think it would be remiss if we tried to include everything with special events at once. So look for special events to be actually a series I think. I think that’s what we got to do.
Robert McGowan: Sounds like it’s going to be a series.
For any questions about today’s podcast or any questions that you don’t think we answered or a question that you might have. Comments, concerns.
Ian Poush: Anything really. Any feedback at all. Feel free to leave a comment below or check out our website at www.opssecuritygroup.com.

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