It’s No Secret, Confidentiality is a Serious Issue


Written by Lori Gershaw

Lori Gershaw started her career in the event industry in 1989 as an Independent Meeting Planner and grew her business into a full-service meeting planning company.   In 2003 she founded her second company, GCG Event Partners, a nationwide network of Independent Meeting Planners and On-Site Meeting Managers.

December 4, 2013

As Meeting Planners and On-Site Managers our clients trust us with a lot of information, much of which can be considered confidential. Sometimes exposing even the most benign fact could betray a company’s sensitive intelligence. So whether you’re officially bound by a Confidentiality Agreement or not, here are some tips on keeping your clients’ information safe and secure.

Shhhh… You’re at a cocktail party schmoozing with an acquaintance, or sitting on a train and your phone rings, or meeting a friend for dinner and you begin to tell them all about your day; “I managed the ABC Pharmaceutical dinner meeting last night and only 3 attendees showed up. It’s for a new drug due to be approved by the FDA in 6 months that’s going to cure the latest medical disease. Oh, and by the way, the speaker, Dr. So-and-so, was so boring that all the attendees fell asleep! Good thing, because the LCD projector broke down in the middle of the presentation. And then the sales representative showed up late and was so rude to me. If only the client wasn’t so disorganized, everything would have turned out so much better!”

None of this may seem confidential, but in the hands of a competitor, it could be just the intelligence they were looking for to get ahead of your client. It’s not up to you to determine what IS or what IS NOT confidential. So, as they say; “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” Same goes for your meetings. “What happens at your meetings, stays at your meetings.” You never know who may overhear you, or who may have a relative who just got a job at the competing company, or who works at a newspaper who’s going to run with the story! So, quick rule of thumb, don’t share any information you’ve learned as a result of working at a meeting. Oh, and that means keeping hush-hush about your past assignments when chit chatting with speakers, reps, attendees, vendors, and venue staff while on-site too. Nobody needs to hear what your experience was like the last time you were at that venue.

One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. The meeting ends, the attendees depart, and you’re left with a room full of discarded or leftover materials. What do you do with it all? Be sure to “sweep” the room, as we say in our industry, and compile any materials that have been left behind. Ask your client what they would like you to do with them. Some may want you to ship them back, and although it may seem like a waste to ship trash back only to be discarded later, the reason may be to avoid having materials get into the wrong hands. And it’s always a good idea to shred any unused materials you may have printed at home. Don’t throw them in the recycle bin or trash without first shredding. We certainly don’t want the information to end up someplace it shouldn’t.

We don’t live in the dark ages anymore. It’s likely your client has emailed information to you and you may have saved it on your computer, or it’s still sitting in your inbox. After your meeting, and after you’ve returned everything to the client and there are no more outstanding issues…. Clean your computer. And I don’t mean dust it off. I mean delete all data that you’ve been provided so you don’t end up mistakenly attaching the document in an email to a different client. Once your duties are done for the event, there’s no reason to retain the information.

With your help, your clients’ information can be kept confidential and keep everyone out of hot water!

What are some ways you’ve learned to keep your client’s information confidential? Leave your ideas in the comments section below…

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  1. Carla Harbour

    It’s sad the meeting folders, presentations, paper…that is tossed after PhRAMA and CME mtgs. Sometimes I take it home to put in my trash. The companies don’t seem to care. The money they spend on printing alone is staggering. It would be nice if they rented hand-helds with the presentation and evaluations installed.


    After the meetings I manage conclude and the room has been swept all materials are collected and taken back home with me to dispose of. All of my hard copy instructions, meeting summary or sign in sheets, etc. in regard to that particular meeting I keep in a file drawer in my office for 6 months. If after 6 months no one has contacted me for anything regarding the meeting I then dispose of it as well. I do not keep anything on my computer after the meeting concludes.


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