In light of recent attacks by religious and political extremists, here are some suggested guidelines for protecting your event and attendees, including website issues, spokesperson training, and community response to an incident.
NCSF Suggested Guidelines
There are many considerations organizers must contend with when planning a large event. Large events include educational and social conferences, leather contests, weekend play parties, vendor markets, and club runs. In light of recent attacks by religious and political extremists, here are some suggested guidelines for protecting your event and attendees.
BEFORE YOUR EVENT
NCSF recommends that you do outreach to local law enforcement. We can not stress enough the importance of doing so. There is no way to fly under the radar if you are hosting an event with a few hundred people that is being advertised over the Internet! Approach the Community Affairs Officer for the precinct in the jurisdiction where the event will be held. Law enforcement can tell you the local and state laws you must observe at your event.
Make sure you investigate local and state obscenity laws. If you are hosting vendors at your event, you run the potential risk of violating state obscenity laws and/or state laws on certain items. Many states criminalize the sale of erotica that depicts bondage, sadomasochism, penetration or ejaculation. Additionally, many states also criminalize the sale of certain "toys" often found at event vendor fairs including throwing stars, certain styles of knives, police memorabilia (like badges or handcuffs) and so forth.
Many religious and political extremist organizations have made a point of gathering information from our own community websites before they attack educational and social events. This information then gets distorted, misquoted and often ends up in the larger media. The mainstream media exposure can be problematic for groups.
1. Be careful about the amount of detailed information you have on your website about your event. It may be prudent for your organization to restrict access to descriptions of classes and presenters to paid attendees or group members only.
2. Layer and password protect the website. Have pages with more information available to those who have registered and paid
3. Do not use explicit language in the areas the general public can gain access to. Do not use words like dungeon or bloodsports or torture because the mainstream doesn't realize that our definition of these words refer to safe, sane and consensual sexual expression. If you want to have the colorful descriptions of the workshops and parties, have them on the page that is available to paid attendees.
4. Consider not posting the name of the hotel/venue on the website. While there are certainly benefits in posting a hotel name, it can be prudent to give out the host hotel location information only to registered attendees. Some groups rent the hotel space in the name of their group/organization as a whole. Other groups find that this is not practical for them and opt to publicize the hotel name and allow conference attendees to make their own reservations. There are pluses and minuses to both approaches.
IF YOUR EVENT IS ATTACKED
You will know if your event is targeted because the venue will receive calls from religious political extremists. If your event or organization has been targeted by religious political extremists, please place the following blurb on your website so that media can contact NCSF for general information about safe, sane and consensual events for adults. You need to act fast because it can quickly become a nationwide media situation. For the good of our community it is important to have NCSF debunk some of the lies and scare tactics these folks are using against us. Please post on your website:
For general information about [event name], please contact [contact info]
YOUR EVENT SPOKESPERSON
Prior to the conference, find someone in your community who can speak for your group - chose one person or things can get confused if they inadvertantly contradict one another. NCSF will train your spokesperson and supply them with soundbites and will work closely with them during the incident. This is very important because it shows the media that this is a local event produced by local volunteers rather than something that's being brought into the community. Please call Susan Wright at 917-848-6544 for media training.
Your Spokesperson criteria:
1. They must be out and able to use their real name - if they have custody of children or a sensitive job, they shouldn't do it unless they are out.
2. They must be nonagressive and able to maintain their cool even when their buttons are pushed. You'll talk to media who say terrible things about us.
3. They must be able to stick to the sound bites and aren't "chatty". Once you start chatting with media, you're sunk. No discussions of technique or practices - that's for educational events, not a mainstream audience.
4. They must be articulate and well-spoken.
5. Most of the media coverage is radio or newspapers, but it also helps to have someone who can go on television. They should look as professional as possible so people won't reject them on first sight. They should be willing to wear a business suit.
When you first begin negotiations with the venue, be completely honest and forthcoming. You may even let them know that they may be contacted and hounded by religious extremists. Forewarned is forearmed. Consider putting a clause in your contract that indicates hotel management is aware of the full nature and the scope of the event.
Make sure your contract includes a clause for penalties if the hotel cancels the event. Most contracts will have a penalty clause attached if the promoter cancels. Protect your event by making sure it flows both ways. Make sure your contract includes a provision to notify you in the event of a management change. And make sure to include a substantial cancellation fee so the hotel will think twice about arbitrarily canceling your event. If there is a change in management, you will need to make sure that you do outreach to the new management. Assure them of the legality of what you are doing and let them know all the precautions you are taking to protect the hotel and its guests.
Check the license structure of your host venue with local laws and regulations, such as the liquor licensing division. Alcohol and beverage control in your local area is often the enforcing arm for "adult entertainment" violations. Depending on local laws, venues that are licensed to serve alcohol may have trouble hosting a private adult event. It is better to know ahead of time and make provisions, than it is to find out at the last minute.
If the parties, or portions of the event, are held off-premise, make sure that you have fully investigated all the licensing regulations, and conform to the requirements. Make sure the police you've been working with in the jurisdiction of the hotel are the same ones who run the jurisdiction where the social parties will be held. If not, you'll need to do outreach to the police in that jurisdiction.
If on your own your event cannot fill an entire hotel, check to see if there is a local sex positive group or organization who can "share" the hotel with you. Coordinate their event dates with yours.
DURING YOUR EVENT
One way to protect your event is to keep it "private." The way to keep your event private is to have attendees register in advance and don't allow people to pay at the door. If you have an event that has different levels of registration, such as workshop only, workshops and one play party, etc., and want to sell upgrades, set up a special business office. The upgrades are only available to those who have already registered and paid for the event.
Have a strict age policy that restricts your event to adults only. In America, anyone 18 or over is considered an adult. Many groups require that attendees must be 21 or over.
Have a "no photography" of any kind policy. Establish in the rules that anyone caught with a camera, video or still, or any other kind of recording equipment, who did not have prior authorization, will be kicked out of the event with no refund, and may be banned from any future events as well.
Many groups have found it beneficial to staff their event (at least partially) with off-duty uniformed police officers. You can check with the secondary employment unit at your police department to see if this is an option for you.
Make sure precautions are in place to keep the general public out of those areas where they might see something that offends them:
- Sight and sound barriers
- Identification badges or bracelets (no ID, no entry, no expections.)
- Badge checkers at every location where there is access to event spaces.
- Have security guards on site at all times there are people present.
AFTER YOUR EVENT
Do a de-briefing with the hotel management. Make sure that you part on good terms, so that they will be willing to fight for you if there is a problem the next time you hold an event there. Additionally, make sure you follow up with the local police to maintain your relationship with them.