Watch what you say!
That's the theme for today's post, as two separate news stories that came out on the same day this week reminded me of the uber-importance of setting policies that govern how your business travelers and meeting attendees communicate on the road and on the Web.
One piece in The New York Times highlighted the dangerous security breaches that commonly occur from road warriors using unsafe wi-fis for their laptops and mobile devices -- you know, the kind that can be found in airports and hotel rooms whenever you do a search for wireless networks.
Don't assume that they're all safe...encrypted...protected, as mobile devices constantly are being infected with malware, according to a source quoted by The Times. Second, there's potential danger even in using so-called safe zones, like hotel wi-fis, as hard-driven information criminals have been known to break into rooms and steal or infect laptops or extract sensitive information from them (It's not too hard to slip into a room left open by a maid as she's making her rounds.). If you can, avoid free public wi-fi in Internet cafes, as some are set up by criminals ready and waiting to steal your information.
Preventive tactics and alternatives? A Symantec Corporation spokesman in the article suggests using a smartphone or device connection for free public wi-fis, as they're much harder to hack. Using your laptop in the hotel? Get the access key from the concierge to your hotel's wi-fi before using. You want to make sure it's not "sponsored by the person in the next room," says the article. Others in the piece suggested whole-disk encryption -- which protects everything on your laptop's hard drive via a password. And then there's virtual private networks (VPNs), which send data through an encrypted tunnel.
Clearly, the message for meeting managers is that all these hazards need to be spelled out in a policy for "on-the-road" communication. And once that policy is created, make sure that it is well communicated and backed up by someone with authority, perhaps the CIO. Confer with your CIO, too, to decide which are the safest modes of communication -- and then recommend or mandate their use.
Coincidentally, another story that same day in The Wall Street Journal profiled a young dancer with the New York City Ballet. Poor guy; he's one of the main reasons the arts institution is now creating a policy on social media use by employees. Seems the young man repeatedly posted some mean-spirited comments, gripes and jokes regarding the company's business and creative decisions.
In this blog, I've talked about the dangers of unorganized, rampant social media posting during meetings by attendees (especially when it concerns an organization's private or competitive information). By no means am I advocating infringement of free speech (Hey, if you have a personal blog and you want to tell the world about your yoga practice -- you're covered by the Bill of Rights.). But this story underscores how important it is for us, as an industry, to address why meeting managers should set policy around when it's appropriate (and inappropriate) for employees to use Twitter, Facebook and other social media when it could compromise your brand or business plans.
Oh, one last thing. Speaking of communicating. I recently had the extreme displeasure of attending a conference where a meeting planner made some very inappropriate and unprofessional remarks about one of their suppliers -- not even thinking that someone from that supplier’s company may have been in the audience. People, wake up! If your company is spending money and allowing you to represent them in a public conference, whatever you say, whether it’s intentional or not, could come back and haunt you or possibly even cost you your job. I personally know someone who lost their job because they did just that, criticize one of their suppliers at a meetings industry conference. That supplier then canceled a partnership deal they were working on with that person’s company and directly attributed the termination of the deal to those comments. The last thing you want is to be called on the carpet by a SVP of sales, procurement or HR of your company because of public comments you made in a conference classroom or meeting.
Bottom line: beware what you say in public forums, as your remarks can come back to haunt you.