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Keeping high-profile meetings safe and secure

Harlan Calhoun | Dec. 3, 2013
Before the advent of smartphones, planting covert listening devices was the most popular way to illegally record content from a private meeting.

Establish security protocol -- Access control is critical and every meeting attendee should be thoroughly vetted, ensuring their identity matches their state or federal identification. The security firm should engage in an electronic sweep of the meeting room right before it starts to ensure there are no surreptitious listening devices planted. Metal detectors at the point of meeting entry should be employed.

All meeting attendees should be aware that security protocol is in place which could include:

  • Pocketbook and briefcase check -- Smartphones, computers, iPads and video and audio recorders should be removed and stored in a safe location.
  • Corporate computer used for presentations -- Speakers should provide their PowerPoint presentations in advance and all presentations should be run off of one master encrypted computer that is pre-screened for bugs.
  • Post-meeting material check -- There should be a review of all written material taken by meeting attendees to ensure that no sensitive information leaves the meeting room.

Attendees should be briefed by the security team on appropriate protocol both during and after the meeting. Many secrets have been divulged at the hotel bar or gym when executives are not aware that competitors are located at an adjacent bar stool or treadmill.

Security protocol should also account for meeting disruption. A shareholder who owns just one share of a company's stock can lawfully gain access to a shareholder's meeting. It is not uncommon for an activist to purchase a solitary share for this reason. While every shareholder has a right to ask questions during a shareholder's meeting, no one has the right to be purposefully disruptive. It is important to pre-plan with corporate security and the company's public relations department to establish protocols to handle a disruptive questioner, or even uninvited media.

Meeting monitoring -- Security and surveillance should remain in full force throughout the meeting. Security officers should conduct continual perimeter checks of the surrounding areas. There should be electronic and physical monitoring during the meeting. Make sure that all unencrypted wireless microphones, which can transmit meeting content outside of the room, have been removed and replaced with encrypted ones.

Escape clause -- Sometimes even the best laid plans can result in an unexpected surprise. A meeting that becomes unruly, for example, may require that the CEO and other top executives are able to depart the premises safely and quickly. Advance of the meeting, all escape routes should be detailed along with vehicles staged with drivers who can whisk away executives at a moment's notice. If it is not possible to get the executives out of the building, it should be determined what the shelter in place plan is and that that this temporary shelter includes sufficient food and water.


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