We are witnessing the dawn of an era of technological advancement that will be far greater than any we have experienced in history. Some have even gone as far as to call it a second “industrial revolution.” This emerging era of rapid technological change will create significant economic opportunities for those who quickly move to capture the new market space the technologies enable. Nearly every organization will be required to assess, evaluate and create strategic plans for how they propose to take advantage of those new technologies and further their businesses. That translates to a topic of strategic importance for corporate meetings, conferences, and events. With so much opportunity on the near horizon, organizations have begun to conduct multiple strategy meetings and events to gather information and to begin to layout their plans to capitalize on and deal with the change that will occur. That translates to meetings and events that are focused on understanding the technologies, estimating their impact, and constructing a strategy to address the coming period of dramatic change.

Competition is at an all-time high and with so much at stake, some organizations and even nation-states are engaged in corporate espionage to find out what the competition is planning. Theft of research, intellectual property, trade secrets, proprietary data and sensitive corporate information has become common in today’s technology intensive world. In fact, the FBI has estimated that by the end of 2015 losses due to the theft of all of this data/information will result in an estimated $400 billion loss. Many people do not realize that meetings and corporate events create a target-rich environment for theft of sensitive information! That puts meeting, conference, and event planners on the front line when it comes to protecting the sensitive information assets of those participating in your meetings, conferences, and events.

Think of all the sensitive corporate information at strategic planning off-sites, management meetings, strategic partner conferences, customer events, trade shows, sales meetings, and of course board meetings. Face it; there are many opportunities for competitors/adversaries to conduct information collection activities that could prove to be devastating to an organization. Education is the best defense against the theft of the organization’s information assets. Analysis of corporate espionage activities found that just one event resulted in a loss of ten years of research and tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars in research and development funding, as well as a decline in market share.

After being involved with emerging high technology and speaking on strategy as well as emerging technology issues and opportunities for nearly 25 years, I have seen a lot of strange happenings. While speaking at a recent event, I discovered documents containing sensitive information and marked CONFIDENTIAL placed on a table outside the doors of the meeting room at a corporate event center. The table was totally unattended during lunch. Later that day I found other documents marked CONFIDENTIAL on a coffee table in the event center’s lobby. How would you feel if the leakage of sensitive/confidential documents were traced back to one of your events? One thing is certain and that is an incident like this is definitely a CLM. What is a CLM you ask; it is a Career Limiting Move!

Every organization, large or small, is a potential target for the clandestine theft of their information assets. Do not wait until it happens to you. Invest the time to understand this threat and how best to go about protecting the confidential and sensitive documents that accompany most corporate events. Did you know that recently the FBI warned about current corporate espionage activities? In fact, I saw a presentation by the FBI that specifically named Meetings, Trade Shows/Conference as a collection method for sensitive and confidential corporate information. Here are a few things to limit your risk.

• Review all meeting and conference materials for sensitive information.

• Determine how much can be heard in the rooms adjacent to your meeting room.

• Never place sensitive documents in the hall – put them in the meeting room.

• Never leave the meeting room unlocked and unattended.

These are some basic things you can do to limit your risks. You should also understand the tools and techniques that nefarious individuals use to conduct corporate espionage; then evaluate the sensitivity of the information that will be present at your meetings or events and make sure proper safeguards are in place.