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Safety Considerations for In-Person Events

Safety Considerations for In-Person Events

Safety Considerations for In-Person Events is part of a larger resource for members of the writing community on personal and event safety concerns, both in-person and online. To see all the resources available, visit our Safety homepage. This section provides best practice recommendations for event planners, basic guidance for professional conduct, and safety tips for event attendees through detailing events security planning, establishing professional conduct standards, what do if harassment occurs, how to consider safety for authors at events, and effective bystander interventions. Sample harassment and accessibility templates are also included at the end.

Event Security Planning

This section is intended as a general guideline for event planners. Each area listed could be expanded and usually requires its own specialists.

This document isn’t intended to scare anyone away from creating an event! It’s meant to raise awareness about security and ways events can limit their liability while creating amazing experiences for attendees and staff.

Regarding smaller events: In general, volunteers at smaller events are doing more with less, so take any opportunity to delegate a security mindset to the lowest level possible and ensure open communication among the team. The event planner may be too busy to think about line control, ticketing or the best way to respond to a threat of disruption.

Volunteer Safety always comes first: When working with volunteers with little or no experience in incident response, reiterate that their safety comes first, and they should never put themselves in harm’s way, or respond to an angry or upset person without help. Communicating the situation is the best response before they do anything else.

The ideas in this guide may be more than your staff can provide. Not providing credentials or multiple secure zones doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hold your event. Maybe you only have a VIP area near a stage, or control access through personal recognition. What matters is that security is a consideration, and volunteers know who to contact if something goes wrong.

Engaging the Community

Feelings of safety and security begin with the community. Security has different meanings depending on the audience and community it serves. An event like Burning Man has a culture of “Safety Third,” where volunteer security follows an ethos of “first, do nothing,” because attendees expect less intervention, while a concert venue may require ticketing, credentials, searches and specific conduct in order to hold their event, in accordance with local and state laws. Even among concerts, the expectations and actions of artists and audiences will vary greatly.

In general, security is a feeling created by the community, through communication and actions, to ensure equal enjoyment within the expectations of the attendees.

Feelings of security start with communication, creating shared expectations, and then meeting those expectations through actions.

Security and safety mitigations might be a requirement of a venue or insurance. If organizers don’t have these constraints, security and incident planning can be overlooked unless someone on staff has experience and authority to bring them up. Because security and safety can be expensive, their execution often falls on volunteers. It’s not impossible to safely manage a large event with volunteers, but it takes a positive training culture to ensure volunteers don’t put themselves at risk by responding to an event or disruptive person.

Code of Conduct

The Code of Conduct represents rules and guidelines created by the event (and attendees) defining acceptable behavior. The code represents “Rules of the Road” for attendees and staff, and should also define response protocols if the rules are broken. Some considerations when creating a Code of Conduct:

  • A Code of Conduct establishes a baseline of behavior that staff can use to identify when someone is acting out or affecting others enjoyment of the event.
  • A code is only as good as staff’s ability to enforce it in the moment. Some events may rely on third parties, like hotel or convention staff, to respond to incidents, and those employees might not have been made aware of the convention’s expectations.
  • Most modern conventions have a Code of Conduct outlining acceptable behavior by staff and attendees, which can provide a good starting point for planning.
  • It’s a good idea for staff to stress test their Code of Conduct by role playing scenarios and responses to ensure the Code provides meaningful guidance.
  • Failure to enforce a Code of Conduct can result in a crisis for the event and organization. The Code represents a promise to everyone involved.

Event Management as Security

Many aspects of managing an event are not seen as “security” but contribute to the overall sense of order that discourages attendees from acting out. Consider:

  • Anyone in a frontline customer service role with attendees is communicating rules and norms created by the event.
  • It’s important that everyone understands any rules set by the venue, as well as the Code of Conduct for the event, so they can navigate any conflicts that arise. If they don’t know how to answer questions, they should have either the empowerment to solve issues at their level, or the means and freedom to reach someone who can help.
  • Often volunteers are placed in a position of authority, such as controlling an entry, with little information and no method to communicate, and understandably can’t perform their function when challenged.
  • Security begins with basic event management techniques like ticketing, line management, customer communication, credentialing and communication among staff.
    • Even for free events, tickets can provide a necessary method of control if someone needs to be denied entry or have their attendance revoked.
    • Poor management can create a lack of confidence or indifference in staff that will create conflict or encourage attendees to act out.
    • Clear communication through all channels will support professionalism and confidence in the event, i.e. a Code of Conduct clearly stated on websites and attendee materials, guidelines on the backs of tickets, professional signage at the event, and staff who understand their role.
  • Role-playing incidents and response, from cash registers down to changing line management to responding to an intoxicated attendee, will help staff know how to respond and build confidence in their jobs.
  • Volunteers placed in a security role should clearly understand their boundaries and liability within local laws. Injuring themselves or attendees can create both personal and event liability.
  • Volunteer contracts should address incident response.
  • Volunteers and staff members should be aware of accepted methods of communication, i.e. verbal, visual, text messaging or radio.

Crowds and Line Management

Crowd dynamics can be some of the most dangerous aspects of a large event and are sometimes not considered by staff, especially when they have not managed a large event previously or have a larger attendance than expected. Some considerations:

  • Allow early or online check-in if possible to avoid creating long lines or crowds. Online RSVP, ticketing or other methods should be used to estimate attendance size.
  • Lines should be managed with soft barriers that don’t create physical choke points.
  • Be aware of egress routes and don’t block fire exits.
  • Separate lines from main travel areas to minimize conflict created by cutting or general confusion.
  • Plan for overflow by providing alternate viewing areas.
  • Provide staff to actively monitor attendance. Ensure they are knowledgeable of local fire code, maximum room allowances and have the authority to limit entrance. One volunteer at a doorway will not stop attendees from entering. Staff in these roles should have a method of communication to call for assistance.

Security in Depth

Security begins before tickets are purchased, through event communication (website, email, etc), the Code of Conduct, active management, ticketing systems, and marketing. A well-run event inspires confidence in staff and attendees and promotes a safe environment. Considerations include:

  • Active planning for traffic control and parking. This establishes security protocols early as attendees arrive. Parking lots are the initial touch point for communication as attendees arrive.
  • Establish security zones for the event:
    • Outside the event
    • Parking and line management to gates
    • Inside the ticketed area, concessions/retail and other main access areas
    • Credentialed areas (staff zones, VIP areas, maintenance and law enforcement, etc)
    • Know time periods for each zone
  • Staff conduct establishes security. Everyone assisting in managing the event is contributing to the confidence and comfort of attendees.
    • Staff should wear easily identifiable uniforms/attire noting their role.
    • Staff should have ability to communicate by radio, phone, visual flags, etc.

Credentials

  • Credentials allow access to secure areas. They can be a list maintained by security, verified by your own ID card, printed correspondence from staff, or tickets or badges with enhanced security, i.e. RFID or magnetic strips.
  • Ideally, a credential is a unique badge with your information and access level, not easily duplicated, that clearly indicates your access privileges despite staff training levels.
  • Poorly designed credentials (photocopied, self-printed, difficult to understand) create friction points and lead to misunderstandings that can affect your safety. If you need access to secure areas, ensure your credential is easy to read, or you have a staff person to assist.

Gates / Entry Points

  • Parking and gates are where attendees first encounter staff. Conflict at these points will affect their overall experience.
  • Understaffing, lack of training and poor communication will put stress on staff and create negative experiences at the gates.
  • The ability to track entry flow and open additional gates if necessary, especially as event start times near, is vital to avoiding unsafe crowd dynamics.
  • Entry and bag check policies must be communicated early and often. Attendees with contraband will slow down lines and create conflict.
  • Volunteers often conduct bag checks, but training is vital to ensuring they are fast and thorough. Poor bag checks create a feeling of security theater. Staff must be empowered and able to enforce the venue’s rules.
  • Security or Law Enforcement presence may be required by the venue, but can also have a chilling effect on attendees. Event planners can set expectations with any security presence through contracts and open communication. Most law enforcement would rather know what to expect from a crowd and what planners want, as opposed to becoming overwhelmed. The typical planning attendance for events is only two officers per thousands of attendees, to assist with incident response and communication with first responders.
  • Magnetometers (Metal Detectors): Body searchers with wands or walk-through portals will slow entry considerably and requires extensive training to be effective. If a venue requires staff to provide this type of check, they must also plan for additional staffing and training time. This must be budgeted.

Situational Awareness

  • Patterns and Expectations (Establishing a Baseline): Using all five senses, what should you expect in the space you’re entering? Will it be easy to recognize when something breaks the pattern of activity? Examples:
    • People typically don’t yell and scream at a convention, but might at a football game.
    • The sound of running feet would be out of place in a mall.
  • Normalcy Lock: People have a tendency to “explain” activity that breaks the baseline. Gunshots sound like a car backfiring. People running could be a flash mob. A burning smell is a barbecue.
  • Permission to Act: If a situation gives you a bad feeling, honor your gut and create space between you and whatever worries you.

Incident Response

  • Chain of Command
  • Communication (radio, text, shared chat, visual, etc)
  • Reporting Requirements (What gets reported)
  • Storage requirements (how long to maintain for insurance/etc)
  • After Action Review
  • Identify venue security resources
  • Identify local law enforcement resources
  • Identify medical response resources

Examples of Safety and Security Incidents at Events

(These are general incidents. Legal definitions will vary by location.)

  • Harassment (can extend outside event, physical, online, phone)
  • Physical and Verbal altercations
  • Stalking
  • Theft
  • Vandalism
  • Protest Activity
  • Disruption of scheduled events
  • Trespass
  • Audio and video recording

Hiring Security or Law Enforcement

Most police departments and sheriff’s offices have special event planners that can be reached by calling a non-emergency number.

  • Departments usually offer hourly rates and will have a minimum number of officers based on the event and their policies.
  • Contact departments as far in advance as possible, as it may require contract negotiations, payment coordination and other planning to ensure support.
  • Many departments can provide planning assistance. Even if the event does not hire officers, they may monitor during the event.
  • Police are often required for any traffic control, street closures or other events with an impact on the greater community.
  • Contact security companies as far in advance as possible.
  • Code of Conduct helps define the service wanted from law enforcement and private security. They should be an extension of your staff and provide the same level of customer service.
  • Having a planned number of security needed, based on entry control points, secure areas and roving presence, will provide a basis for negotiating and comparing bids.
  • Events may also be required to have an ambulance or EMT team on call.
  • Depending on the community, police and security may be expected to conduct patrols and be seen in the venue, or they may remain in staff areas to respond as needed. This should be decided by staff during planning.

Additional Resources

National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security (https://ncs4.usm.edu/)

Professional Conduct

This section provides basic guidance for professional conduct during in-person events such as conventions, readings, or any other meeting of industry professionals and/or fans. The gradual evolution of many cons from purely fan spheres to mixed fan/professional spheres (as well as the personal evolution of many authors from fan to professional attendee) can create challenges in gauging appropriate behavior as well as openings for bad actors seeking to push boundaries.

Though the culture and expectations surrounding events will vary, it is important to remember that these are, ultimately, work events. The presence of room parties or bar hangouts at a con, for example, doesn’t negate the fact that most of the attendees are there for business reasons and wish to be treated accordingly.

The following suggestions are not comprehensive. It is important to remember that regional and cultural differences abound. Rather than relying on a one-size-fits-all model of behavior, your goal should be to treat everyone with care and respect boundaries as they arise.

Also see the professional conduct section of our Safety Considerations for Virtual Events resource for more information about behaving professionally at industry events. See What to Do if You’re Harassed and Event Safety for Authors in this resource for more information about staying safe when others act unprofessionally.

Do Not Engage In Harassment

This is the bare minimum of professionalism, but harassers often claim ignorance (ignorance of con policy; of norms and expectations; of their target’s discomfort). You can see our template for what a clear anti-harassment policy looks like here, but this section is worth quoting in its entirety:

Harassment proscribed by this Policy includes:

  • Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other physical, verbal, written, or image-based communications of a sexual nature. 
  • Creating an intimidating, threatening, or offensive environment by severe or pervasive conduct, including stalking and uninvited or unwelcome physical contact.
  • Sexual harassment may occur in hierarchical relationships or between peers, and between persons of any gender or sex.
  • Repeated verbal or behavioral indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile or derogatory slights and insults toward any individual or group, particularly culturally marginalized individuals and groups

A hostile environment can be created by, among other things: unwanted jokes, gestures, and unwelcome comments or repartee; touching and any other bodily contact such as hugging, scratching, rubbing, or patting a person’s body, grabbing another person around the waist, or deliberately interfering with a person’s ability to move; repeated requests for dates or sex that are turned down, or other unwanted flirting; filming, transmitting, or sharing any communication (such as chats, direct messages, and emails, etc.) or video and/or pictures of a harassment-related nature.

 Look Out for Fellow Attendees

The safety and professionalism of an event is largely dependent on the ability of the event runners to enforce safe policies and the willingness of attendees to reinforce a culture of professionalism.

  • Read the Code of Conduct. Make sure to familiarize yourself with any anti-harassment policies or other expectations published by the event runners.
  • Know how to contact the event’s safety/security team and when to do so.
  • Consider taking some time to learn about Effective Bystander Intervention to better aid your fellow attendees if an incident happens in your presence.

Pay Attention to Social Cues

Comfortable levels of social distance have changed since the pandemic began and were always subject to cultural differences and personal preferences before that. Err on the side of caution. For example:

  • Do not touch anyone without permission. This includes hugs, taking someone by the hand or arm, or touching their hair or clothing.
  • Permission to touch also extends to animals, mobility devices and belongings. Do not pet service dogs or other animals without permission. Do not physically assist disabled attendees without asking first or being asked—and when doing so, follow the request and nothing more.
  • Do not take offense if people say no to physical affection, handshakes, etc. You may see people interact with others (friends, colleagues, etc.) in ways they do not interact with you.

Respect Boundaries

In addition to the physical boundaries mentioned above, take care to respect emotional and professional boundaries. For example:

  • Do not corner people to ask for autographs, opinions, reviews of your query, synopsis, or book. Conventions often have appropriate venues available for this (workshops, office hours, pitch sessions, signing tables, etc.).
  • Do not follow agents, editors, authors, or other professionals into private spaces such as bathrooms to press your manuscript onto them, pitch projects, etc.
  • Do not continue to interact with someone who has asked or told you to stop.
  • Do not take pictures of anyone without their consent. Check the photo policy at the con or event. Some have explicit opt in/opt out models for photos.
  • Take care with sensitive topics of conversation (sex, politics, religion, and so on). Remember that this is a work function and attendees may have a wide variety of backgrounds, cultural norms, and comfort levels.

Learn to Manage FOMO

The fear of missing out (on new friendships, on professional networking, on interesting experiences) can easily lead people into boundary-pushing or unprofessional behavior.

  • Stay aware of your surroundings, especially in situations where people are drinking. Not everyone will behave professionally. Resist peer pressure to play along with inappropriate humor, sexual advances, or otherwise perpetuate a hostile environment for other attendees.
  • Know your limits: with alcohol; with staying out late; with overextending yourself trying to attend everything with everyone. Build rest time into your schedule. Step away if you find your temper or manners fraying.

Tips for New or Infrequent Travelers

The following tips aren’t safety-specific, but can make attending professional events run more smoothly.

  • Many conferences have first-time attendee sessions aimed at helping you get the most out of the conference. These may be single panels or they may pair you up with a more experienced attendee who can answer questions and give advice.
  • Make certain you are hydrating, eating, and taking meds on time. It is easy to throw your body off when traveling, especially across time zones. Be sure to schedule time for your regular daily rituals.
  • Bring easy-to-carry foods that suit your diet.
  • Bring your own water bottle or drink mug. If you are staying at a hotel, you may have coffee/tea in your room. Some rooms have a microwave, but not all.
  • Regarding clothing: wear what make you feel comfortably professional. You may see a range of clothing from suits to jeans and t-shirts.
    • Cosplay isn’t standard at most writing conferences, though it can be appropriate at some.
    • Dinner events such as award ceremonies are more formal and may warrant bringing dress clothes.
  • Bring pen and paper or your preferred means of taking notes.
  • Consider making business cards. A simple card with your name, email, and website is an easy way to share your contact information with new acquaintances. Leave some blank space on one side for notes—when receiving a card, it’s handy to jot down a reminder of why they gave it to you.

Effective Bystander Intervention

We can all play a role in creating safe public spaces in our community through practicing bystander intervention. Hollaback! provides a list of useful resources as well as free virtual trainings in bystander intervention techniques. Research shows that intervening when a person is being harassed, even if it’s just by giving a knowing glance, can reduce trauma for the person who is being targeted. It’s also important to model the community norms we wish to see through our own behavior.

You can prepare yourself to intervene by reviewing the following steps:

  1. Recognize that harassment can be experienced in both in-person settings like conventions, workshops, and readings and in online settings such as virtual conventions, virtual readings, etc.
  2. Recognize that many different behaviors can be experienced as harassment:
    1. Intimidating looks and staring
    2. Comments about appearance
    3. Vulgar gestures
    4. Making racist, xenophobic, homophobic, sexist, and transphobic slurs
    5. Making inappropriate sexual comments
    6. Following someone
    7. Grabbing, touching, and otherwise forcing unwanted physical contact
    8. Doxing and making threats
  3. Recognize the thoughts you may have that prevent you from intervening:
    1. Fear of making things worse
    2. Not knowing what to do
    3. Paralysis because no one else is doing anything
    4. Minimizing, i.e. “this isn’t a big deal”
    5. Thinking “it’s not my problem”
  4. Become familiar with the 5 Ds of Bystander Intervention developed by Hollaback! and practice using them.
    1. Distract: Start a conversation with the target or otherwise pull attention away from them. Likewise, you can start a conversation about a different subject with the harasser to distract them.
    2. Delegate: Get help from someone else.
    3. Delay: After the incident, check in with the target to see if they’re okay and if they need help.
    4. Document: Take video footage or screen shots of the harassment. (Find tips for filming here.)
    5. Direct: Speak up about the harassment as it’s happening.

Examples of how to implement the 5 Ds of Bystander Intervention:

  1. Distract: You can start a conversation with the target, pretending to know them, in order to give them an exit. You can spill your drink, pretend to be lost, pretend to trip, drop something, ask for directions, or otherwise distract from the target. On the internet you can distract the harasser by asking them a non-related question.
  2. Delegate: You can find con staff, bookstore staff, a manager, or other official person to intervene. You can also ask a fellow writer if they feel comfortable intervening if you don’t; in an online situation, you can make this request over private message or text. You can find a list of community-based alternatives to police that you can contact by city here.
  3. Delay: After the incident is over, you can check in with the target to see if they’re okay, to tell them you noticed what was happening and that it wasn’t okay (validation), and to ask if there’s anything they need now, like a drink of water or an escort to another space. You can also private message a person to check in with them online.
  4. Document: You can take video or screenshots of the incident. If you do, ask the target of the harassment what they’d like you to do with the evidence and offer to share it with them. Never post it publicly without their permission.
  5. Direct: You can speak up directly about the harassment, saying things like “That’s not okay,” “Leave them alone,” “What’s going on here?” Keep it short and don’t engage in debate. If using this tactic, make sure to assess your own physical safety first. You can learn more about methods of counterspeech online here.

If you would like to learn more advanced intervention methods, you can consider taking a conflict de-escalation course here or elsewhere.

What to Do if You Are Harassed

Sadly, harassment is still prevalent at many science fiction and fantasy conventions. It can take many forms:

  1. Verbal harassment, including name-calling, catcalls, making sexually explicit suggestions, etc.
  2. Physical harassment, including unwanted touching, staring and following, standing too close, etc.
  3. Threats of rape and violence
  4. Public masturbation in front of an unwilling audience
  5. Sexual assault

Before Attending a Convention

Check the convention’s harassment policy: This should be clearly available on the convention’s website. Make sure the policy has clearly delineated procedures for what constitutes harassment and how to report harassment. (See our template for what a robust anti-harassment policy should look like here.)

Consider having a con buddy: If you have a trusted friend or acquaintance who is also attending the convention, ask them ahead of time if you can look out for each other and discuss what that entails for you.

If You Experience Harassment at a Convention

Here are some steps you can consider taking:

Get yourself to safety: Your own personal safety is paramount, and you can take whatever steps you think are necessary to make yourself safe. This might include removing yourself physically from a space, asking others for help and protection, etc.

Take notes of the details you can remember of the incident: The sooner you can take notes, the better. Include what happened, when and where it happened, if there were any witnesses, and any other useful information you might remember. You can also write down names of any people who later help you in an official capacity.

Find support at the convention: Reach out to friends, family, or colleagues who you feel you can trust to support you. These people can act as buffers in panels, parties, or other public spaces, look into the con’s specific procedures for reporting, keep you company if you decide to report the incident, or make sure you’re eating enough and keeping hydrated.

Decide if you want to report the incident:

  1. You can report the incident to the convention. In order to help you decide whether to do this, you might look up a convention’s harassment policy or contact their safety team. Consider whether you’d prefer to make a formal report or an informal report, and what you need in order to make reporting as safe as possible for yourself. You can also read about one person’s experience reporting harassment at a convention to get a better idea of what to expect.
  2. If the harasser is attending the event in an official capacity, such as an editor or an agent, you can report them to their HR department.
  3. If you are the victim of a crime, you will need to decide whether to involve the police.

Again, your safety is paramount. It is a personal decision whether or not to report an incident, and outside pressure about this decision is inappropriate.

Find ongoing support: Figure out what your needs are going forward and ask for help. Some options include: getting support from friends and family, setting boundaries about your con attendance in future, taking self-defense classes, going to therapy, finding an in-person support group, finding an online support board, etc. See our page on Self-Care If You’ve Been Harassed for more information.

Event Safety for Authors

It’s a good idea to take some basic precautions for smaller gatherings like readings, which may present more potential for disturbance or access to an author. Small venues don’t have budgets for security and often rely on volunteers, so talking through a few what-if scenarios can be helpful. The goal is not to be overly worried, simply prepared if something changes during the event.

Take a Friend

  • Having a friend along during an event, no matter how small, can help ensure situational awareness while you’re focused on your work. A friend can check the room while you’re focused on your reading or discussion, help you get out of conversations that have gone too long, or assist with signings, and signal when it’s time to transition to another part of the event.
  • Situational awareness, establishing a positive baseline for behavior at an event, and giving yourself permission to acknowledge when someone is crossing boundaries are skills to practice, and if you’re focused on “being an author” it can be difficult to recognize or respond when someone’s behavior changes.
  • If you don’t have someone who can attend with you, ask the venue to provide assistance, especially if you are the only author attending.
  • Recording the event, and letting the audience know they are being recorded, can help de-escalate situations.

Someone Needs to Be in Charge

  • Readings in small venues sometimes won’t have the staff to both run a store and manage an event. If the venue isn’t able to provide someone to manage the event, bringing someone who can greet attendees, direct them to seating, and then open and manage the event will help create a sense of organization. This can help deter someone who intends to disrupt an event.
  • The person in charge should clearly be in charge, either by clothing or demeanor. Someone should acknowledge attendees as they enter, and address the audience before the event begins (sharing info about restrooms, exits, where to buy books, and any requests from the author). Be clear about guidelines and expectations so anyone breaking norms can be easily recognized.
  • Ticketing – even for free events, requiring tickets helps with planning for seating and other amenities. If attendees are required to present a ticket for entrance, a ticket can also be revoked if they create a disturbance or express a desire to disrupt the event beforehand.
  • Having a timeline can work as an “out” if you need to move to another area or it’s time to leave. Even a loose schedule gives you the option of following it or not.
  • Who will call 911 if something happens, and how will they call? Do staff have cell phones? Where is the business phone?
  • The person in charge needs to be aware of the capacity of the space and exits. If more people arrive than planned, how are they tracking attendance and how will they cut off entry? Is there an overflow plan for attendees to watch from another location?

Physical Barriers

  • Seating placement should be planned based on the author’s comfort and accessibility. Some authors will want to be close to their audience (a podium or stage will make them uncomfortable) while others prefer some separation from the audience.
  • When sitting on the same level as the audience, consider the path away from the event for the author/s. Is it easy for the author to navigate to a back door?
  • Panels are often set on stages or seated behind a table. Can attendees easily leave the panel and exit through the stage, without needing to pass through the audience, or step off in an unsafe place?
  • Will the speaker be trapped behind a podium if someone in the audience becomes disruptive?
  • Stanchions, tables, low bookshelves or an empty row of seats can all serve as barriers. The goal is to create space so the people on stage have room to leave, or at least stand and move to another location if necessary.
  • Line control can be accomplished using stanchions, chairs, bookshelves, etc, and helps establish a sense of order in the event. A person breaking the line is immediately demonstrating they don’t want to follow norms.

Parking

  • Try to park in a well-lit location close to the venue. If you aren’t attending with a friend, ask an employee or organizer to meet you and call from your car to let them know you’ve arrived.
  • If you are transporting books or other items, use a hand truck or backpack that allows you to keep your hands free.
  • Keep keys in an easily accessible location.
  • Carrying a small, high-lumens flashlight can be useful if overhead lighting isn’t available. A flashlight can serve as a deterrent if someone is approaching you that you don’t know.
  • Let staff or friends/family know when you are leaving for your car.
  • Ensure your phone is charged and carry a portable battery with a cord that works.
  • If your car seems unsafe (someone is waiting there), walk back to the venue or another well-lit area with people around. Call while you walk. Leave your hand truck/etc if necessary.

Communication

  • In small spaces, most communication will be by voice or hand signal.
  • Ensure clear sight-lines to the person on stage. This may require reserving a seat for employees or the person assisting the author.
  • Texting/chat apps like MS Teams are a good way to communicate quietly with staff during an event.
  • For larger events, two-way radios are an option but they can be disruptive if staff aren’t wearing earpieces.
  • As the author, ensure you know how to reach staff and have a point of contact for the event. Call the venue a few hours before the event and ensure they answer their phone and someone will be there to meet you.

Safe Area/Green Room

  • Having a designated area away from the audience where you can prepare, or exit to if necessary is ideal. This could be a staff office or break room.
  • Have a clear path to the safe area during the event.

Communication and positive community almost always help people feel safe. If you have concerns about an event, talk with staff as early as possible to develop a plan, and don’t be afraid to set your own boundaries about how the event will be run.

Policy Templates

Anti-Harassment Policy (In-Person Events)

Introduction

[ORGANIZATION] sponsors or hosts [CONVENTION], the con suite, and other programs and activities (the “Venues”). [ORGANIZATION] is dedicated to assuring that the use of and access to the [ORGANIZATION] sponsored and hosted Venues is free from all forms of harassment, intimidation, and discrimination on the basis of race, age, sex, gender identity and expression, national origin, ancestry, disability, medical condition, religion, sexual orientation, veteran status, marital/domestic partnership status, or citizenship.

This Policy is applicable to members of the [ORGANIZATION] community that participate in the Venues. The [ORGANIZATION] community is comprised of [ORGANIZATION] staff, employees, volunteers, attendees, and guests.

Definitions

Harassment proscribed by this Policy includes:

  • Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other physical, verbal, written, or image-based communications of a sexual nature.
  • Creating an intimidating, threatening, or offensive environment by severe or pervasive conduct, including stalking and uninvited or unwelcome physical contact.
  • Sexual harassment may occur in hierarchical relationships or between peers, and between persons of any gender or sex.
  • Repeated verbal or behavioral indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile or derogatory slights and insults toward any individual or group, particularly culturally marginalized individuals and groups

A hostile environment can be created by, among other things: unwanted jokes, gestures, and unwelcome comments or repartee; touching and any other bodily contact such as hugging, scratching, rubbing, or patting a person’s body, grabbing another person around the waist, or deliberately interfering with a person’s ability to move; repeated requests for dates or sex that are turned down, or other unwanted flirting; filming, transmitting, or sharing any communication (such as chats, direct messages, and emails, etc.) or video and/or pictures of a harassment-related nature.

With regard to access to or use of the Venues, discrimination or harassment that is based on race, age, sex, gender identity or expression, national origin, ancestry, disability, medical condition, religion, sexual orientation, veteran status, marital/domestic partnership status, or citizenship, is also prohibited by this Policy.

This Policy is implicated when the harassment, intimidation or discrimination is sufficiently severe or pervasive to deny or limit a person’s ability to participate in or benefit from [ORGANIZATION]’s Venues. It is not necessary that the harassment, intimidation or discrimination have been directed specifically at any complaining party.

Free Speech and Artistic Freedom

The purpose of this Policy is intended to discourage harassment, intimidation and discrimination in [ORGANIZATION] Venues. As participants in the creative industry and fandom, most members of the [ORGANIZATION] community are cognizant of the importance of free speech. However, freedom of speech and artistic and creative freedom are not limitless and do not protect speech or expressive conduct that violates federal or local law, or [ORGANIZATION]’s properly adopted policies.

Reporting Procedures

If the situation is safe, and the person experiencing harassment feels comfortable to do so, they should communicate with the individual engaging in the offensive behavior to let them know that the behavior is inappropriate and request that it immediately cease.

If such behavior does not immediately cease, or if direct communication is insufficient, unsafe, or uncomfortable, the following steps may be taken:

Contact the [SAFETY COORDINATOR] via [IN PERSON METHOD]. Alternatively, you may email us at [REPORTING EMAIL]. Such a report should include the substance of the complaint, date(s), a list of witnesses if applicable, and/or, when appropriate, reference URLs or screenshots.

Due to the nature of interpersonal grievances, we cannot accept anonymous complaints of harassment. However, all personal information shared with [ORGANIZATION] is kept confidential and will not be shared outside [ORGANIZATION] for any reason without the victim’s written consent.

Non-Retaliation

This Policy prohibits retaliation against a member of the [ORGANIZATION] community for reporting harassment, intimidation or discrimination and for participating in an investigation relating to same. The sanctions for retaliation are the same sanctions available to address any other violation of this Policy.

False Allegations

It is a violation of this Policy for a member of the [ORGANIZATION] community to knowingly or with reckless disregard for the truth make false claim of harassment, intimidation or discrimination. Failure to prove a claim of unlawful harassment is not, by itself, equivalent to a false claim.

Sanctions for Violation of Policy

Harassment, intimidation, and discrimination in violation of this Policy is materially and seriously prejudicial to the purposes and interests of [ORGANIZATION]. When it has been determined that a violation of this Policy has occurred, [ORGANIZATION] will determine, in its sole discretion, the appropriate sanction.

Should conduct believed to be in violation of this Policy occur at a [ORGANIZATION] Venue, the [ORGANIZATION] staff, employees, or volunteers in charge of the Venue at the time of the conduct may take reasonable action to stop the apparent harassment and ensure the safety of participants. Reasonable action may include, but is not limited to, verbal or written notification to the individual that the behavior believed to be in violation of this Policy should be discontinued immediately, and/or removal of the individual from the Venue.

If action is taken, the person taking the action shall deliver a written report on the event incident (including a detailed narrative of the incident and the names of all persons involved and of any witnesses) to [SAFETY COORDINATOR / ORGANIZATION LEADERSHIP].

The [SAFETY COORDINATOR / ORGANIZATION LEADERSHIP] is responsible for the implementation of this Policy and the administration of the associated procedures. As supplements or alternatives to the sanctions of suspension or expulsion, the [SAFETY COORDINATOR / ORGANIZATION LEADERSHIP] may also take one or more of the following non-exclusive actions:

  • Warning one or more parties involved that specified behavior is inappropriate
  • Requiring a formal apology on behalf of the complainant(s)
  • Ejecting the offending party from the premises
  • Removing access to [ORGANIZATION] spaces or Venues on a temporary or permanent basis

The [SAFETY COORDINATOR / ORGANIZATION LEADERSHIP] may pursue an investigation in cases when the complainant is reluctant to proceed.

Confidentiality

The [SAFETY COORDINATOR / ORGANIZATION LEADERSHIP] will make every reasonable effort to conduct all investigations into allegations of harassment, intimidation or discrimination in a manner that will protect the confidentiality of all parties. Notwithstanding the above, confidentiality is not absolute, and those with a legitimate business reason to know and to be informed of the allegations will be so informed. Parties to the complaint should treat the matter under investigation with discretion and respect for the reputation of all parties involved.

Accessibility Policy (In-Person Events)

Thank you for joining [CONVENTION]. We hope to make this event a welcome and accessible space for our members with disabilities.

Our Venues include the following features:

  • ADA-compliant rooms
  • Elevators or ramps to the following event spaces: [LIST]
  • Ramps to stages for presenters/panelists
  • Gender-neutral restrooms
  • ASL Interpreters
  • Low-sensory rooms: [LOCATIONS]

If you are presenting programming at [CONVENTION], please be aware that, by considering the following, you may make it easier for others to enjoy your presentation:

  • Make sure that your lips are visible to attendees, some of whom may read lips
  • Use high-color contrast and large fonts in projected presentations
  • Consider captioning any audio and describing your images aloud
  • Warn audiences before flashing or strobe effects, and before sensitive content in your presentations
  • Speak into the microphone, even if you have a loud voice or think it’s not necessary

If you are attending [CONVENTION], please be aware that, by considering the following, you may make it easier for others to enjoy the events:

  • Avoid lingering in doorways and make sure that hallways are passable for those who require additional space
  • Leave the first row in presentation rooms free for those who need it
  • Don’t assume that anyone needs assistance. If someone seems like they could use a hand, ask before assisting, and respect the answer given.
  • Do not take pictures of people without their permission
  • Do not approach, pet, or otherwise handle service animals without asking
  • If you are able to use the stairs, consider doing so when possible to free the elevators and ramps for those who need them

Conclusion

If you have accessibility questions or concerns at any point prior to or during the conference, please reach out to [ACCESSIBILITY COORDINATOR]. Suggestions for improvements are welcome, and we will do our best to accommodate your needs.