This is a guest post by Howard Givner, Executive Director, the Event Leadership Institute.

Event planning is like plumbing: if you do your job well, nobody notices; but if you screw it up, everyone’s covered in you know what. (I didn’t make that up, but it’s not a bad analogy).

Insurance is an even bigger subset of that example. Nobody will every compliment you after an event by saying, “Wow! Were we properly covered for risk at that event, or what! You really hit it out of the park on the insurance front!” However, when something goes wrong on the insurance front, it usually goes terribly wrong.

If a stage collapses at your event, for example (and god forbid), that’s bad enough. At a minimum you’re looking at a ruined event; but you could be looking at property damage, injuries or deaths. If you add to that the misfortune of not being properly insured, you’re also looking at a giant lawsuit that may cost your company millions of dollars and possibly even put you out of business.

Here are three ways to protect your business.

1. Hire experienced vendors

The first step to avoiding an event mishap is to hire experienced and responsible vendors who don’t cut corners and have properly trained staff. Ultimately, you want to avoid a mishap in the first place.

But even with the best vendors, things happen. People are fallible and make mistakes. And of course there’s the litany of “Act of God” or “Force Majeure” incidents that are considered beyond anyone’s control (hurricanes, earthquakes, etc.) This is where insurance comes in.

2. Get proof of insurance

As the event host, or the outside event planner, you want to make sure the vendors you hire are properly insured. Often the venue will dictate specific insurance minimums, but you should check with your company’s insurance agent for specific guidelines to protect your company.

To do so, you ask your vendor for a Certificate of Insurance, which is a one page document that is universally accepted, meaning there is only one standard Certificate format. The Certificate will list the vendor in question, the amount of insurance they hold (usually $1-5 million), the insurance company providing it, the dates the policy is active, and the type of insurance. General Liability is usually the kind you’re looking for, though when liquor is served the caterer should also list Liquor Liability insurance as well.

3. Get added as an ‘Additional Insured’

Getting evidence of insurance via a Certificate is not enough however. All that means is that the vendor is properly insured. However if there’s a problem, like a heavy speaker or lighting instrument on a pole falling down and injuring a guest, you can rest assured that you’ll be sued too.

A common practice is to ask the vendor to add your company onto their policy as an “Additional Insured”, which means that their insurance will cover you as well. This would be listed on the Certificate of Insurance they give you in the comment box toward the bottom, and appear as a single straightforward sentence indicating such.

They’ll usually only add you for the event date in question, but a good tip is to make sure you include any set up or break down days as well.

Asking to be Additionally Insured creates some additional administrative work, and isn’t really critical for every vendor (e.g. how much risk are you exposed to with your calligrapher?) But it’s an absolutely essential step in proper planning, and should be considered standard operating procedure whenever producing an event.

Now you’ll be properly prepared

You’ve done your job well and can rest a bit easier knowing you won’t end up covered in you know what.

For more information, check out the Event Leadership Institute’s video class on Event Insurance, taught by Melissa Maybury of HCC Specialty Underwriters.

Here’s a clip:

Want to learn more?

Download our new guide, Planning a Successful Event Campaign: 15 Essential Best Practices for Making Your Event a Success.