Preparing for the GDPR: What Event Organizers Need to Know

January 25, 2018

The European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is designed to harmonize all existing regulations to provide a higher level of security for citizens of the European Union (EU). Slated to take effect on May 25, the GDPR will apply to any organization that does business with citizens of the EU, regardless of that organization’s location.

The GDPR includes regulations on the collection, use, transfer, monitoring, tracking and even viewing of personal data.

The “personal data” bucket is a big one and includes information you might not have taken into consideration. In addition to data points such as name, email, ID #, photo, location data and online ID (IP address, social media), it also includes any factors specific to physical, social and economic factors – in short, anything that possibly could be used to identify someone.

How does this impact the meetings and events industry? If you are an event organizer, chances are you may have at least one attendee who resides in the EU, even if your event is held in the U.S. or another non-European location. The GDPR will apply to collecting or sharing any personal data from EU-based attendees and sponsors.

Why should you be concerned? It’s not just about security breaches. If you are audited and fail to meet the criteria for compliance, you risk more than just losing business and goodwill. For non-compliance with administrative, processing or collection obligations, the penalty is either €20 million or a 4 percent fine on your annual global revenue – whichever is higher.

Some key points to take into consideration:


  • When structuring your event communications, including your website and registration, it’s important to be aware that you can no longer rely on implied consent. A general opt-in communications checkbox is no longer enough.


  • Consent must be freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous. This will require you to make a statement up-front (prior to the collection of any data) specifying exactly how and why the data will be used, what the terms of use are, give EU residents the ability to withdraw their permission and have their data erased at any time. People must then be given the choice to opt-in or to decline.


  • The GDPR applies retroactively to any existing data you may have on EU residents. You’ll need to classify, label and destroy old data – or proactively gain informed consent from each person for the specific uses you may have for that information.


  • It’s recommended that you check with any third-party suppliers you may be working with to learn their compliance plans. Work together with them on due diligence, investigate indemnification clauses with your legal team, and be aware that the level of data security will need to be increased across the organization and your events.


Chances are, compliance will be driven from a legal or security team within your organization. Most organizations will (or should) have a compliance director who is the main point of contact for disseminating relevant information and policy changes and ensuring GDPR compliance. However, anyone in a marketing function, including event managers, should familiarize themselves with requirements and best practices to avoid potentially costly mistakes.

The International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) will soon be releasing a whitepaper on the topic as part of its mission to inform members of changes in policy and law that may affect them.

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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.