Off-Site Meetings

July 15, 2016

When holding any meeting or training session off-site, in a hotel or conference center, you and your firm need to apply several proven techniques to protect your competitively sensitive data (CSD).

Here are 10 easy steps to take:

  • Keep the names of meetings and their subject generic on all displays at the site, and never leave a list of attendees, badges, or meeting schedules and handouts (see below for more on this) on an unattended (at any time) registration table in the hall.
  • Is someone actually checking that everyone coming into the meeting room has a badge? If you do not spot me, you cannot stop me, can you?
  • For all breaks, either (a) secure the room from outsiders – that is, put a guard in there or lock the door when everyone is out, or (b) collect all materials from all desks and tables. Actually, doing both is better.
  • When leaving a room, particularly at the end of the day, police it yourself. Take down all flip charts and dispose of them (with the hotel, not just in a trash basket or recycling bin in the room), wipe down all white boards, remove all company equipment (including CDs or jump drives used by presenters which may have been left on a podium), and clear all tables and desks of all papers. Those should be disposed of with the hotel.
  • Do not use jump drives if you can avoid it. Why? They are easy to leave around for someone else (a competitor) to pick up. Also, a fast way for hackers to penetrate your systems is to infect a plain looking jump drive. If no one is using jump drives, then hopefully no one there will pick up a lonesome drive and boot it up at the meeting or back in the office looking to see who owns it.
  • Avoid using handouts. They are easy to lose or just drop into the (unsecured) trash or recycling bin. If there are materials to be consumed at or after the meeting, put them on a secure, password protected website so the attendees can access them.
  • Conversations about the meeting, the company, and CSD in particular, should be confined to meeting rooms. The bar is last place they should be held – and perhaps the first place I would be checking.
  • Phone calls back to the office should be conducted in the meeting rooms, or the individual’s hotel bedroom. Never, never conduct then in the halls. I may be standing near you.
  • The same is true of going over materials provided online. If I can see you, I may be able to read what is on your computer. That includes in the hotel lobby, as well as in an airport or on an airplane.
  • Who else is holding a meeting, training, etc. there? A competitor? A critical supplier or customer? While you do not have the leverage you do if you were booking a large portion of the hotel to keep them away[1], you can at least ask the hotel if any of your direct competitors (provide them with a short list) or other sensitive firms (another short list) will be there. If so, take extra care to protect everything.

Oh, enjoy the meeting.

[1] For more on security in such situations, see Rob Carey, “Meetings Security: The X Factors”, Smart Meetings, July 2016, pp. 76 et seq.



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