Managing risk at your event - prevention is better than cure

Hi guys, you’re listening to the talking regional tourism and events podcast. My name is Linda Tillman, and in this show, we talk about how a successful tourism events economy can drive regional growth and community pride. We offer you tips, insights and even some great case studies on how you can create a sustainable visitor economy. Now let’s talk!


Hi guys, welcome to the talking tourism and event podcast. This is season one, where we’re talking everything regional events, and episode five, risk management. In this podcast we will be looking at four simple steps on how you can better manage risk at your next festival or event. The job of risk management for events is one that many of us avoid, ‘those things will never happen to us!’ they say. I call B.S! risk can happen to any event, no matter what size or scale. I really believe it’s the lack of awareness about what risk is that creates this apathy. Risk is so much more than health and safety of event attendees – think environmental risk, financial risk, marketing or reputational risk. Most recently I’ve been talking to an event that has just introduced a mental health management plan, because they have identified mental health as a risk for their event. 

Understanding all of the different types of risk for an event can be overwhelming, and quite frankly, make you reconsider why you’re running the event. But with simple systems and processes in place to manage risk, you’ll be fine. It does not have to be as scary as it sounds! Today I want to share with you a four-step process in effective risk management for your event.

There’s four steps to effective risk management:

Step 1: Identify the risks
Step 2: Evaluate the risks
Step 3: Mitigate the risks
Step 4: Review the success of risk management 

Now, step one, identifying the risk. The best way for you to identify the risks for your event is to have a brainstorm session with everyone involved in your event. This doesn’t have to be hard, this is just simply adding it to your agenda, or getting everybody together one afternoon and sitting down and having a brainstorm around what are all of the potential risks of our event. The main risks to consider are things that could cause injury to an attendee or participant – so health and safety; Things that could cause damage to equipment, infrastructure or the event site; and things that could harm the future of the event, or the organising committee - so think financial and legal risks.

What you need to do is ask many what if questions – so, what if we lost power supply?
What if key managers were sick on the event day?
What if there was a storm during an event?
What if a major sponsor or grant funding was lost?

Have each of your organisers in all aspects of your event, so each of those different committee managers or department heads, have each of them identify the risks for their particular area they are responsible for, and provide you with the notes around this. You’ll be amazed at what they come up with. So, if you go through that process you should end up with a whole heap of potential risks for your event – and I said potential, so don’t be scared by this. These are the what ifs, and these are the things you just need to think about. So now you’ve got all of those potential risks identified, which is great.

So once you’ve identified the risks, you’re on to step two, you need to work out the likelihood of each risk happening, its frequency and probability, but I wont get too technical! So basically, what’s the likelihood of each risk happening, and the consequences it would have if it happened, and that will determine the level of risk. So essentially you end up with a formula. And I’m sorry, I said I wouldn’t get technical, but this is as technical as it gets. So, the level of risk = the consequence x the likelihood. So for example, a fire may be unlikely, but could have severe consequences for your event. So, its level of risk is unlikely, times the consequence which is severe, which gives you a medium risk level. So, it’s just this process of going through this formula with each of the risks you have identified. Each risk level will require a different level of action in order to mitigate them. So, once you’ve evaluated the level of each risk, you can then better understand the priorities and what actions are required to mitigate them. So it’s this process of identifying the risks, and next, understanding how to evaluate the risks. So looking at each of the risks that have been identified, and using that simple formula, the level of risk = consequence x likelihood. I’ll put some more detail on that in the podcast notes, but it doesn’t have to be hard. It’s simply really thinking about the likelihood and the consequence of each of the risks that have been identified.

Now, step three. What you need to do next is decide the steps you will take to reduce and avoid any medium and high risks. So as I said, medium and high risks, so what steps will you take to avoid them. Any low risk, you will manage those in just your everyday processes. But when we talk extreme risks, if any of those risks have been identified as extreme, that’s really unacceptable, and you need to find ways to completely avoid them. There’s no mitigation process for extreme risk. So what we’re talking about in step three is really around the medium and high risks, and your key here is prevention is better than cure. So once you’re clear on what your risks are, the committee needs to discuss how they’ll be prevented. So you’ve identified your risks, you’ve identified the level of risk, and now we’re going to look closely at your medium and high-level risks. And what are the steps you’re going to take to prevent them. This seems funny at times, because you’re not actually anticipating any of these things to happen, and this is some of the challenges we have with events is, we’re not really anticipating these things to happen because some of them are worst case scenario. However, scenario planning allows you to prevent all these risks from happening, because we just don’t know. We really don’t know what could happen. When we’re working with the public, often in public places, we really don’t know what could go wrong. So you need to make sure you go through this process. And you know what, as much as this sounds a little bit technical, it’s actually not that hard, and it doesn’t take a lot of time. And once you’ve done it once for your event, you then have a framework of your risk management plan that can just be adjusted each year. 

You need to also factor in contingency plans when you’re looking at risk mitigation. So, we’re still talking about step 3 here, how do you mitigate the risks. And once you’ve been through that process and looked at your medium and high risks and how you can reduce or avoid them, I also want you to think about contingency plans. I want you to think about what’s the worst thing that can happen at your event and how would you deal with it. Do you have a contingency plan for wet or adverse weather conditions? Do you have a backup plan for your headline act not showing up? What will you do if you are down 50 percent of your volunteers on the day? Who will take over if the key event coordinator is not available on the day of your event? And what if you lost power supply? I’m really trying, I’m trying so hard not to scare you, but its this fine balance of actually being aware and addressing these things, but also making t=sure that you still deliver an amazing event experience. And that’s often the challenge when we look at risk management around events. Risk management is not about making things stop happening, it’s about making sure that you can continue to deliver the quality experience for your visitors in a safe environment. We need to balance the quality of experience with the safety of our patrons. And that’s the goal with risk management.

Now, step four. What you need to do is arrange for a post-event debriefing to assess what worked and what didn’t work. This is no different to the debriefing process that we talked about in module one, but this is more focussed on your risk management. So, how did the risk management plan work for you? Did any risks come up that have to be managed, and how well were they managed? So, include that as part of your debriefing process. Now there’s a rEVENTS Academy tool for you that might be very useful, it’s a risk management plan and a risk action plan template. So, I’ve already done the hard work for you, you can download that at, and that’ll give you a framework to start this process with your event committee. 

A few other things I just want to talk about, so that’s the four steps to managing risk for your event. Some other things that you want to think about is being clear on what the committee’s legal liability is, and I often get asked about this. I can’t provide you with legal advice, and I suggest that if this is something that concerns you that you do get legal advice but what I will say is that it all comes down to duty of care. Which means taking all possible steps to avoid potential injury to everyone involved. What I’ll do is I’ll link to the judges guide in the podcast notes, because it’s a very useful document in this discussion and that’ll give you a bit more background. But as I said, if you’re concerned about this, I do suggest that you gain some legal advice, but don’t be too scared by this. As I said, it’s all about duty of care so if you go through the due diligence and do what you should be doing from a risk management point of view then there’s no issues at all.

Alright, I’m almost finished this podcast guys, so just hang with me for a few more minutes, I’ve just got a couple of other things I want to share with you on risk management for vents. What about insurances? Oh god, can’t they be a waste of money?! Look, what I suggest is that you always seek advice on what insurance you need for your event. And just some of the types you may want to consider; public liability – so this covers costs related to accidental injuries to members of the public at your festival; there’s adverse weather insurance – so this will cover yourself or you event against the cancellation of a festival due to adverse weather conditions that makes your event unsafe for people to attend. Volunteer insurance or workers compensation insurance is cover against any cost that may arise due to a member of staff or volunteer getting hurt at the festival. Any great festival or event will offer that to their volunteer workforce. Now, cancellation insurance – if your festival is cancelled due to any unavoidable reasons not known to you when you took out the policy you’ll be covered. This can include the cancellation of equipment and other costs associated with the event that can’t be recovered. Then there’s property and equipment insurance, which covers you against the loss of or damage to any equipment. And then there’s vendors and contractors, or your third-party suppliers. Now this one’s important guys, it’s not just about your insurance, you need to make sure that these third-party contractors or vendors are also adequately covered. So, what you need to do is always obtain their certificates of insurance, and make sure that they name the event as an interested party and additional insured in their policy. And make sure you have a good look at their policy to make sure its adequate cover. This is really important, and I know some vendors get a bit uptight about having to supply a lot of documentation, but this is really important, and any reputable vendor will already have this documentation ready for you.

What I also want to take about is licenses and approvals. Now, what do you need for your event? It may be traffic management, liquor licensing, food handling, public land licences. You need to ask yourselves these questions to determine what licenses and approvals you need. Will there be road closures for you event? Have you arranged waste management? Have you considered noise levels? Will alcohol be available at the event? Is food being served at the event? Are you erecting any temporary structures such as stages or marques? And are you planning to use fireworks? Consult with your local council as early as possible to help to identify what licences, approvals and permits you require. They’re there to help you. Now, how will you manage traffic. This is another piece of the puzzle when we talk about risk management for events. You need to consult with your local emergency services in the planning stages, and make sure they are well briefed on the event. The first step for you is to contact council, as I said when we are looking at licences and approvals, contact council and ask for advice. You may have different requirements whether it’s a state road or a local road that you’re working with, so you may need to engage RMS. Many events are engaging a professional to work on a traffic management plan. Once they have developed the plan for you, it is then your asset and you can just update that internally year on year. Some communities also access SES, state emergency services, for support in traffic management. So look at what resources are around you, and identify where you can access that professional assistance and support. I’ve also got another rEVENTS Academy tool for you, it’s called the licence and approvals checklist. So it’s a handy little checklist of things you need to think about when you’re considering the licences and approvals for your event. You can download that one at

Now, who is responsible for managing risk on your committee? It actually may be worth engaging your company to review your plans and ensure you have it all covered. I’m happy to provide advice on that, anybody interested in accessing professional support, I have some great companies that I work with so you can contact us via the Facebook group, and we can give you some information on that. But if this all too overwhelming for you, which look, it shouldn’t be If you just follow the four steps, there are some companies out there that can support you through this risk management process.

Now the final thing, and I hate to say it, but what about this dreaded thing we call terrorism. Look, in regional and rural Australia I really hope that we never have to deal with this, but it is something that’s on the radar from an events point of view, so talk to your local council. Depending on where you are, there may be some requirements for your event, particularly if its in a public place. So look, I’m not going to dwell on this, but I also didn’t want to avoid the topic but just make sure that its factored into any of your work looking at risk management or public place event management.

So there you have it, the simple steps to effective risk management. Remember, this is all about systems and making you less busy. So, as you work through this for your next event, set up the tools and correct systems I’ve supplied and you’ll save yourselves load of time in the future. Now I mentioned a little earlier that we’d have some stuff for you. Over at you can purchase DIY tools to assist you with risk management. If you become a member of the rEVENTS hub community, you’ll get all of this and so much more for free! It’s all waiting for you in the hub at 


Thanks for joining us in the regional tourism and events podcast. For more great stuff, be sure to visit us at Talk again soon!

Cristy HoughtonComment