Risk management

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Risk Management is a management function intended to identify and minimize the future negative effects of present or potential situations on your convention. It is a practice the Executive Committee members, Department heads, and all other staff should be engaging in as they make decisions and plan events throughout the convention. The power and value of the technique is that it encourages the decision makers and planners to realistically look at many possible root causes that may derail the convention, rather than simply the "usual suspects". And it points out the risks and root causes that are most likely to cause real world problems, rather than attempt to treat all potential problems as equally serious and equally likely. This puts early focus on the most dangerous potential problems and gives the team time to fix them.

Risk Management can be an explicit table top exercise with many committee members participating, or it can be as simple as a mental exercise by a single person planning some aspect of the convention. There are 5 steps involved:

  • 1. Identify the risks. Compare the actual activities the convention is engaged in or plans to engage in with the goals of the convention, and examine how those activities will be carried out. Anything that works to prevent the goals from being achieved is a potential risk. Example: we want to hold an outdoor dance and reception on Friday afternoon. We will need a dance area, music, chairs, and light refreshments.
  • 2. Assess the risks. Examine the ways the activity can go wrong, and rate the probability of occurrence and severity of consequences of those events. A series of "If... Then..." statements, as specific as possible, will help focus on the root cause(s) of the risk. For example, "If it rains on event day, then our outdoor dance floor will be ruined, and we will not be able to dance there." A weather forecast will tell you the probability of rain (Low, Moderate, High), and an evaluation of your goals (i.e. is the dance mandatory, optional, or somewhere in between) will tell you the severity of not having an outdoor dance. A very effective tool at this point is to place all the risks on a 3 x 3 or 5 x 5 grid, to more easily see their relation to other risks.
  • 3. Mitigate the risks. Comes up with methods to minimize the risks (take specific action(s) to reduce either the Probability or the Severity), and thus reduce the overall risk of an undesirable outcome for the convention and its members. Each mitigation may have a cost associated with it, so some may be preferable to others. The mitigations are evaluated to see which best reduces the risks, within the affordability constraints of the convention. In the example, the dance could be moved to a day with lower probability of rain, the dance could be moved indoors to eliminate probability of washout, a tent could be erected to minimize the severity of washout, a waterproof floor could be installed to minimize the effect of rain, etc. Using the mitigations, reposition the risks on the matrix to see how much improvement has been made.
  • 4. Prioritize the risks. After mitigation methods are explored, they are overall prioritized from High to Low, based on the mitigated Probability and Severity pairs ((High, High) to (Low, Low)), which establishes the order of how the risks will be addressed. The highest risks should get most focus in order to quickly reduce them as a threat to the overall success to the convention. The lowest risks have the least negative impact on the convention, and lower effort can be expended on them.
  • 5. Monitor progress of the risks. Re-assess the risks over time to see if the mitigation method is reducing the risk as planned. Also, new risks may have emerged over time, and previously assessed Low risks may have changed.

The article at Wikipedia has an excellent description of the technique.

One very practical risk handling activity the Executive Committee / Concom can do is to buy event liability insurance. This will provide some protection in case some damage occurs to the people or property at one of your venues (hotel, convention center, etc.). It is very likely the venues will require your group to have some insurance before you can set up.