Security for Offsite Meetings

Headed for a big meeting at a hotel or other offsite venue? Security is either going to help everything run smoothly, or be seen as the department that makes everything more complicated. Here are tips for protecting confidential presentations, employees, assets and more at any offsite meeting. William Besse, Vice President of Consulting and Investigations with security firm Andrews International, and physical security consultant Dan Finger provided their suggestions.

offsite meeting security - exits, stairwells, access points
Joan Goodchild

Know the venue

If possible, Besse recommends security get involved in the process as early as choosing a venue.

Once you’ve agreed on a site, before operations even begin, security needs to be well-versed on all exits, stairways and other access points. Knowing the building inside and out is crucial.

Access control is critical for offsite meetings
Joan Goodchild

Control access

How will attendees access the event location and space?

Will they be required to show ID at the site in order to be credentialed?

How will you secure entryways so unauthorized parties can't get it? 

Attendee credentials for offsite meeting security
Joan Goodchild

Check credentials

The next step is actually getting attendees to wear their credentials, says Finger, and to keep an eye out for those wearing the wrong badge, or no badge at all.

A standard procedure for social engineers (and wedding crashers) is to simply walk up and confidently walk in, looking like they belong. Teach meeting organizers to look for legitimate credentials, not body language.

Don't advertise sensitive offsite meetings
Joan Goodchild

Create clear signage (or don't!)

Many events will feature signs throughout the venue to direct attendees to the various meeting spots. For example, when CSO attended a recent IEEE security event, the signs were prominently displayed.

But certain events may call for little or no signage. “Depending on the event, I wouldn’t even put up signs because it attracts attention,” says Finger. If your meeting is covering controversial material or extremely sensitive plans, consider relying on pre-event communication or other strategies rather than highly visible signage.

In any event, remember to communicate your signage expectations to the hotel staff.

Check offsite meeting spaces for hidden recording devices
Joan Goodchild

Check hiding spots for recording devices

This should simply be standard procedure for any meeting with sensitive discussions.

In plants, under benches and on window sills are all places where recording devices could be hidden, says Finger. If proprietary issues and recording are both concerns, security should have a plan to regularly sweep such areas to check for such things, even after the meeting is underway.

Background checks on meeting venue employees
Joan Goodchild

Vet venue staff

Vetting the venue's employees may be necessary if you are concerned about the potential for spying or political statement.

“You may want to check with the hotel on new hires in last few weeks,” says Finger. “Any new hire could be coincidental, but there could also be a plant going on. “

Control vehicle access at offsite meetings
Joan Goodchild

Limit vehicle access

One way an intruder can try to circumvent normal access control is by driving into a restricted area. Worst case, and certainly rare (thank goodness) but not unheard of: Someone looking to make a statement could attempt to smash a vehicle into the building where a meeting is being held.

“Security may want to develop buffer zones, designated areas away from the buildings,” says Finger. “One idea is to set up some temporary bollards that would discourage people from trying to do something. “

Evaluate parking security issues
Joan Goodchild

Think through parking issues

If your venue is in an area with large parking areas, are you comfortable with attendees walking through them alone at night? If not, what will you do to ensure safety?

(See pictures illustrating good and bad parking garage design from a security and safety standpoint.)

Find 12 offsite meeting security holes

Ready for your quiz?

See if you can spot 12 potential security holes in our illustrated Offsite Meeting Security IQ Test!