I recently had the opportunity to play a security role with a large corporate client directly involved with the 2016 Democratic & Republican National Conventions. The conventions only occur once every four years but it’s scale and magnitude are pretty staggering, involving everything from the United States Secret Service to State and Local Law Enforcement. While at this point everyone knows who the won the nominations, at that time all we knew was this political season would be one for the history books.
This one goes without saying for anyone in this business, but the importance of being flexible cannot be stressed enough. Last minute schedule changes (days off that aren’t!), venue changes, staff changes, and client needs are all fluid and often change with very little notice. You may find yourself conducting bag checks at a receiving line or entry point, securing an area for the arrival of a VIP, and preforming protective advances and escorting a client, all in the same time fame.
Use People Skills
As we have all heard stated many times, this is technically a service industry, and that was definitely evident during the political convention. At any given event you may find yourself having to interact or liaison with members of the local law enforcement, agents from the United States Secret Service, U.S. Capital Police, FBI, and various members of other individual protective details. At the same event you will interact with members of the public, caterers, hotel staff, invited guests, politicians, and VIPs from many different arenas. You also have to manage interactions with your own team, all of whom have their own individual personalities.
Think on your Feet
As mentioned above, plans change, often at the last minute. Things come up, problems are sometimes unavoidable, but things rarely slow down or stop so you can regroup. Learn to assess and solve problems on the move. Teams change, and you may be working with a full team one minute and half of that number the next.
Rest when you can
Hours are long, schedules are hectic, and the pace is often fast. There can also be bursts of excitement followed by hours of monotony, but every post is important. In order to stay at peak performance, it’s important to take breaks when you can, and sleep when it’s your turn. If in a supervisory role, taking care of the team provides a significant moral boost.
Leave politics at home
Politics is a touchy subject (especially in the current climate) and debates can get heated. Everyone has an opinion and that’s great, you don’t have to agree with everyone, but let’s be honest, while working a political event, no one cares or needs to know. Leave the politics at the door. In fact, I know some that did not make the final selection process because they were too vocal of their political taste on social media.
Murphy’s Law – if something can go wrong at the worst possible time, it will. I’m not talking about security concerns necessarily, I’m also referring to logistics. Don’t assume something that should be common knowledge is common knowledge. Transportation, packing, lodging, departure/arrival. There will always be that one person who runs late, misunderstands the briefing, or gets confused on the route, and that could negatively affect the entire assignment.
Have a plan and know what you are doing
Always have an understanding of what your assignment is, even if it changes five minutes later. If you don’t understand, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. Every role being played is an important one, and every detail is important. Standing post at an out-of-the-way access point may not seem as glamorous as working a VIP escort, but if someone is looking to cause harm or disrupt the event, they will be looking for that weak link the chain like an unguarded door.
Don’t take things personally
This far-reaching advice. You will not get along with everyone, your best laid plan will need some tweaking, not everyone will agree with you, and you may find yourself in need of guidance along the way. Do not be offended by helpful suggestions and do not take it personally if someone doesn’t get along with you. Learn to accept feedback – good or bad – and learn from it. Do not let your ego get in the way of a good learning experience.
Soak it up
Not everyone gets opportunities like being a part of a major political event. Use every opportunity to observe those around you, absorb a much as you can, and use the experiences to make yourself a better EP Practitioner.
Jason Poston is an Executive Protection Professional who was tasked with a Detail Leader role for a corporate account heavily integrated with the 2016 Democratic & Republican National Conventions.