At Right Angle Events, we are often asked about the requirements for Event Risk Assessments. In general, most people we speak to think of these documents as red tape gone mad – a process you go through only because the venue owner, council or authority you are dealing with has told you that you had to supply the document.
We think this misses the point.
Great event planning is about considering all of the possibilities surrounding your project, and ensuring you have the answers before you get asked the questions. When things go wrong at events, too often this is because the event organiser hasn’t considered the possibility of the incident or action occurring – almost all event failures are avoidable.
In thinking about risk for events, we believe that in great event planning the focus of ‘risk’ is broader than looking only at OH&S or safety risks that most of us think of. While these are no doubt vitally important, equally deserving of attention are reputational, financial and organisational risks.
A company staging a daring product launch involving a group of performers blocking traffic on Flinders St during peak hour for example certainly must consider the safety risk of people within live traffic, but arguably the biggest risk is reputational – will major disruption to the lives of thousands of people leave a positive brand association with potential clients or customers? Probably not.
To develop your own risk assessment for an event or project, think of the process of the assessment as a planning tool for your event – not just a way to create a document that no-one looks at. There are many templates and models available for risk assessments (RAE uses the ones from Worksafe Vic), however at its simplest, good risk assessment involves only two questions –
1. What could go wrong?
2. What can I do about it?
In answering question 1, think broadly about the outcomes you are trying to achieve from your event, and what might happen to prevent these from happening. Someone could be hurt at your event, your key speaker might not turn up, poor weather might ruin your plans, or you might not sell as many tickets as you anticipated.
To answer question 2, ensure that you have a realistic response (or range of responses) to the problem you have posed. For example, covering your entire outdoor event in a temporary structure in case of rain is unlikely to be a feasible solution, but some simple investigation of alternative locations that your event could be moved to in case of poor weather, or a simple and effective event cancellation plan could well be.
Importantly, you then need to ensure that the actions you have identified in your risk assessment become part of your event planning – a risk assessment full of ideas and strategies that are never implemented is worse than useless.
Right Angle Events always perform a basic risk assessment of any project at the very beginning of the planning phase. We find it helps us to identify a range of strategies and plans we can build into the event design to ensure the smooth running of the event on the day.
Over the years we have been faced with a huge number of challenging and bizarre event circumstances, but know from experience that making the risk assessment a central part of your event planning process is a major part of ensuring you have the answers on event day.