Apparently, there is a growing trend among trade shows; individuals who hang out on the fringes of the show all in hopes to that they will snag that big customer without having to pay exhibitor fees. For these outboarders, suitcases and lobby rats as Velvet Chainsaw Consulting calls them – this is a no brainer, because if they ultimately win some business they have done so on the cheap.

The problem with this practice is it isn’t fair – to you, the exhibitors who pay or even to the utterly confused and possibly upset attendee. The last thing an attendee wants is to feel ambushed by a hacker business who is trying to show them their good via a briefcase (hence the term suitcaser).

But the ultimate question of the day is: What are you going to do about it? After all, it is a free country. Hotel lobbies and exhibit hallways are open to anyone. Velvet Chainsaw came up with some interesting alternatives which I will share below along with some of my own insights as to ways to keep these pesky trespassers out or lure them in.

4 Ways to Keep Trespassers at Bay

Change Things Up

If you always hold your event at the same destination, same venue and same time of year, you are opening yourself up for outboarders.

Move it to a new city, destination and/or change the time of year. In addition, remember to change up the agenda. Move the trade show times around and bring in different speakers and facilitators.

Bring Them Into the Family

Rather than pricing these exhibitors out of the hall, bring them in with different booth sizes, days or locations. If possible, find out what price point would bring them in.

Perhaps let them sponsor trade show technology that will draw attendees in, such as a charging station. Or let them share a booth. Open yourself up to all kind of possibilities.

Provide Better Content

Remember that most exhibitors attend your conference as an attendee.They want to learn something new too. Focus on great content with good speakers and these rogue exhibitors will be dying to attend your meeting.

Help Them be Successful 

Find out how all exhibitors measure success and ROI. Try and build an exhibit hall methodology that will meet their needs. Ask a lot of questions and be responsive. And by all means, don’t start out your sentence with, “We never do that…”

In summary, if you treat these folks with respect and dignity, try and draw them in with great content and help them be successful, you are well on your way to positive bridge building methods. No one wants to be a trade show traffic cop and most of us don’t have the time to do it. Make them your biggest advocate and the rest of the trade show traffic will take care of itself.

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