Securing Off-site MeetingsPosted: November 4, 2015
November 4, 2015
The popularity of holding off-site meetings comes and goes. In some cases, their use is designed to bring together people from offices or locations that don’t normally have physical interaction. In other cases, they serve to enhance team-building. In yet others, it is to provide a measure of security not available at a company’s regular offices for matters of some sensitivity.
There are a number of simple steps that should be taken at off-site meetings to prevent the accidental release or purposeful capture of sensitive or confidential information, whether to competitors, the media, or the public:
- Find out who else has meetings at the site you are considering using. While you may secure your site, when your people are taking a coffee break they start talking in the hall and others may overhear their conversations. You should do this at two points: first when you’re considering retaining these site and second, just before you go there to see if things have changed.
- Make sure you check everyone that comes into the room. Outsiders can wander in “accidently”.
- If you are going to have a registration table and/or display table, consider putting it inside the room or rooms you’ll be using rather than the hall. If you place it in the hall, then you need to have somebody of the table at all times to keep the materials secured as well as to keep from prying eyes things like attendance lists, notations of incoming calls, etc.
- If you are distributing materials at the meeting, distribute them that the meeting, not before. In fact, distribute them in the conference room, in public halls the hotel or convention center.
- Clearly mark all materials as company confidential, proprietary etc. This will not stop some people from taking these materials, but will discourage those who operate on an ethical basis. It also should alert your attendees to be careful with them.
- Remind the people there that what you are doing is confidential, and is not to be discussed outside of the meeting rooms, including in the halls, at the bar, the pool, on the golf course etc. No discussion outside of the room means no In addition, remind them that any materials you hand out are to be handled with care. If it is a very sensitive matter you may consider having people leave materials in the room and locking it at the end of each day.
- Keep communications in the room secure. Have all attendees turn off all smart phones and tablets. That is aimed at keeping attendees from recording the proceedings or taking pictures, as well as communicating with outsiders. If that is not possible, ask that these instruments be put in airplane mode, so that no incoming or outgoing calls can be made. This also cuts down on distractions.
- When you are done with the meeting, sweep the room – yourself. Do not rely on the hotel staff for this. That means collecting all materials and notes left behind, wiping all whiteboards completely, and removing all trash from trash cans that have been the depositories for conference materials. Securing a room during the meeting and then leaving copies of the agenda with a whiteboard showing conclusions reached on a new marketing campaign is not security – it is folly.
By the way, if you’re holding the meeting on-site and it is a sensitive matter, the same cautions apply.