Jeffrey Rasco Attendee Management Issues

Protecting Your Clients, Protecting Yourself

August 24, 2006

By Jeffrey W. Rasco, CMP

I mentioned I was recently in Boston, but didn't say why. I was asked to speak at Passkey's Group Housing Forum, and I co-presented with their Scott Rudberg on Security and Data Privacy. Doing the preparatory research just about scared the wits out of me!

I came across case after case of security breaches, and some were pretty close to home. A common thread was sensitive customer data being accessed by the bad guys - not from some sophisticated cyber attack, but from simple carelessness or stupidity. A laptop left unattended, passwords shared or left on sticky notes under the keyboard, backup tapes not secured...the list goes on.

If you are in the meetings business and your organization maintains information on your members, customers, vendors, employees, etc., you have a responsibility to protect it. The unofficial theme of our talk was "It's Not Just IT's Job Anymore." Credit card or Social Security numbers and other sensitive data in the wrong hands, especially if not properly disclosed, could bring the organization down, and even send you to jail.

We don't have the time or space in a blog to get into a lot of details, but there are some simple things you can do to safeguard important information. A great resource is the Internet Security Alliance. Visit their site and click on Best Practices. Their "Commonsense Guides" for senior managers, small businesses, and for home and individuals are well-written, full of valuable information and cases, and simple to understand. The "Commonsense Guide to Cyber Security for Small Businesses" is required reading in our office. We've always worked hard to do it right, and we found a number of things that needed tightening.

A quick look at the Internet Security Alliance's 12-Step Program to Cyber Security:

  1. Use strong passwords and change them often
  2. Watch e-mail attachments and Internet downloads
  3. Install/maintain anti-virus software
  4. Install/maintain a firewall
  5. Remove unused software, and especially unused user accounts
  6. Have strong controls on physical access
  7. Backup important files, folders, and software
  8. Keep software and operating systems current
  9. Maintain network security with access controls
  10. Limit access to sensitive/confidential data to those that need to have it
  11. Establish a security and risk management plan, and carry adequate insurance
  12. Get help if you need it

Few of these safeguards cost much if anything, and don't require a computer sciences degree to implement. In other words, it's not just for IT anymore. It's up to all of us.

Don't Write Off Meetings Just Yet

August 22, 2006

By Jeffrey W. Rasco, CMP

I opened the local paper this morning and saw a teaser about web-based conferencing being ready to surge thanks to two things – rising oil prices and terrorism. When I turned back to the business section, the story was about a local company that provides equipment and services for video teleconferencing. The picture of the local business owner at his desk, and his partner projected on the video screen, showed them looking giddy at the prospects of fewer people traveling and more logging on.


I remember in the ‘80’s when the cover of one of the trade magazines featured a row of satellite dishes with a headline that asked something like “The Death of Live Meetings?” Remember the spike in interest in web conferencing after 9/11? Since people would no longer travel by airplane to meet, WebEx and her sisters would flourish. And they have.

I flew to Boston last week (fortunately not from Heathrow), just a couple of days after the British brought down the terrorist cell planning to blow up planes over the Atlantic. Yes, I checked the bag that I would normally have carried on (I like my own toiletries), but every plane was packed. The conference I attended was packed, too. We are learning to live with the world as it (unfortunately) is, and continuing to meet face-to-face.

I have nothing against meeting over the Internet. It is how we conduct our training and make most of our sales presentations at AMi. Web conferencing is an extremely valuable tool in the meeting professional’s toolbox, and knowing when and how to use it is one of the things that sets us apart from “cup counters.” But as long as humans remain the social animals we are, meeting online will continue to grow and flourish, but as an adjunct to physical meetings.

Smile on, video guys, but don’t start writing the obit for meetings just yet.

A Brief History of Life in Technology

August 21, 2006

By Jeffrey W. Rasco, CMP

Why is it that with an intense interest in technology and early training as a writer, blogging comes so unnaturally to me? I’m hoping by the end of this week I’ll have a much higher comfort level, and be a more active traveler in the blogosphere, but I’m counting on you to respond and contribute to the dialogue as we touch on some technology issues over the next few days.

Some history…

I started trying to apply technology to meetings as a planner for a large cancer facility X number of years ago. Our high tech solution at hand when I started was a fleet of IBM Selectric typewriter. We had two fonts in two sizes, four balls in all, and built-in correction tape! Over the years we grew from those marvels to dedicated word processors, to custom programming on the mainframe, to a Macintosh network, and finally to web-based data systems. Each step was a giant one forward.

Managing that office and the technology growth we were fortunate to enjoy taught me many things. One item of great importance – you don’t implement technology for technology’s sake. Every upgrade has to go through a cost-benefit analysis, and changes are made only if justified. As professionals, we have to cut through the “cool” and see if there is a tool that will move us ahead. I am truly fortunate to be asked to speak and write on meeting and event technology often. My primary message is always hinged on common sense learned as a practitioner, not the “wow factor.”

Another thing I learned, and this is the height of practical, is to actually plan training on new technology. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the people who design tech tools are not like you and me. They are smart enough to build the stuff, and basically think we are too stupid to own computers. So everything is “user-friendly.” We have “intuitive design” and “GUIs.” Well this user becomes decidedly unfriendly and says phooey on your GUI. If you don’t plan intensive training time in an appropriate environment for all staff using the new gear or software, your productivity losses can be staggering. Please don’t ask how I became an expert in this…

Finally, before I bring my first blog to a close, when making important decisions (not limited to technology), call on and trust your peers. That is the real value to me of MIgurus and MIMegasite, MeetingNews, Successful Meetings and the other publications, and of utmost importance our industry associations. If I am doing research, I count on the trade press and the great work that they do. With a couple of clicks, I can find in depth articles based on countless hours of research (that I didn’t have to do!). When it’s time to pull the trigger on a decision, I call my friends in the industry and count on their experience. Why learn from you own mistakes when you can learn from others’?

In the next few days, we’ll write on everything from the business of meetings technology to your responsibilities as guardians of data. Practical? Yes. Boring? We’ll see. Hope we can have some fun, and that you chime in.

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