There’s been a resurgence of the discussion on the subject of suitcasing and outboarding.
For those of you new to the expo industry, suitcasing is the act of soliciting attendees of a tradeshow for business onsite without being a sponsor or exhibitor. Passing out flyers on the showfloor without a booth is most common. Also common is hanging out at the bar or other public areas where attendees congregate with the express intent of doing business without not paying for the privilege.
Outboarding is holding unsanctioned events—parties, hospitality suites, food functions, offsite demonstrations and even entire tradeshows—without being an exhibitor or sponsor at the officially sanctioned show. In other words, taking advantage of the fact there are potential customers in town that you want to reach—without offering anything in return to show management, which has invested a ton of money and resources to make the event happen.
Both are considered thievery.
Both are also really lame terms that mean nothing to anyone outside of our business. Suitcasing comes from the days of traveling salesmen who carried their wares in suitcases.
Outboarding? I tried researching it and the closest definition I could find was nautical: “Situated or positioned outside the hull of a vessel.” So I guess outboarding comes from being outside the mother ship. No wonder exhibitors get confused! Maybe we should start calling these practices something easier to understand, something more intuitive.
There was a recent #Expochat featuring Rick Calvert, CEO of New Media Expo, based on a blog he wrote about a situation that happened at one of his events. It’s a clear and concise treatise on the impact a company that suitcases or outboards can have on an event.
Some “guerilla marketers” believe that it’s perfectly OK to suitcase and outboard. They even brag about their “cleverness.” It’s our job to educate our clients and prospective clients about the ramifications of such behavior. It’s also our job to make sure that we find a way to bring these folks “into the fold."
What’s the best example you’ve seen of a show co-opting suitcasers and outboarders?
Stephanie S. Selesnick is president of International Trade Information, a longtime global exhibition industry specialist helping U.S show organizers increase international participation in their exhibitions and a well-known speaker and trainer. Follow her on Twitter at @stephselesnick.