Insurance For Conferences and Special Events; What Planners Need to Know

Planning conventions can be a whirlwind of choosing keynote speakers, venues, session topics, and vendors. But if you neglect to also spend a few minutes examining your special events insurance needs, you may be setting you and your organization up for legal trouble. 

Whether you need special events insurance or not depends on a number of things — not the least of which include how you are planning the event, where it is going to be held, how many people are going to be there, and what types of things you will be doing.

At a typical technology conference held at a convention hotel, a lot can go wrong — from guests falling and injuring themselves, to vendors damaging the venue. And if you are planning to include interactive events and/or alcohol, you had better be thinking insurance.

Think of your insurance as layers of protection. Start by looking at your existing insurance policies to see what is (and is not covered.) Your general business liability insurance may offer sufficient coverage for some small in-house events, but depending on the details of your event, your coverage needs start to add up fast.

The simplest way to understand special events insurance is that it is liability coverage that protects you while you are hosting a short-term event.

Policies differ, but some common coverages include bodily injury, property damage to the venue, medical expenses that might arise during the event, and a whole host of other coverages that can be tailored to fit your particular event.

Some policies have specific limitations and requirements, such as attendance caps, requirements that the event be held on concurrent days, or that the event be held at a location that you do not own.

Your agent can help sort out where your existing policies are sufficient and when it is time to start looking for supplemental coverage.

Basic special events insurance could cost as little as a $100, while events with more risk may cost thousands more.

Most venues will require proof of proper coverage when it comes time to sign the contract, and many require that they be added to your policy as a named insured.

In many cases, companies and organizations turn to professional convention planners. In those cases, the planners often already have special events insurance policies that will cover you, and being included on their policy can be written into your contract, said Kerri McDonald with R.V. Nuccio & Associates Insurance Brokers. So, if you are hiring a planning company, make sure to ask about the coverage they are already offering.

In addition to your coverage, it is typical to require that each of your vendors also carry their own liability coverage. In some cases, even the presenters need coverage – such as if their session includes an interactive component, such as yoga, where the participants risk injuring themselves.

There is always a risk of a lawsuit for anyone who has a legal responsibility in an event. As the event host, you can be sued by anyone as a result of their being there, said Mark Beck, senior vice president of K&K Insurance Group, Inc. in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Understanding from the beginning that putting on a convention involves significant risk can help you make an insurance plan that will have you, and your event, properly covered.

Guest Post by Michael Giusti, a senior writer at He has worked as a journalist for more than 20 years, including as a reporter at a daily newspaper in Florida, as an editor at a regional business journal, and as a writer for national and international publications. He specializes in business, technology, finance, insurance, automotive and industry-focused writing.

Keith Johnston

Keith Johnston

Keith is the Managing Partner of i3 Events but is most widely known as the outspoken publisher of the event industry blog PlannerWire. In addition to co-hosting the Bullet List and Event Tech Pull Up Podcasts, he has been featured in Plan Your Meetings, Associations Now, Convene, Event Solutions, and has appeared on the cover of Midwest Meetings Magazine.

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