Yesterday, fellow Expo blogger Stephanie Selesnick saved me the trouble, filled you in on suitcasing and outboarding and acknowledged that these foul practices have once again become an issue in the tradeshow world.
Much of the recent buzz on social media about the two topics was spurred by Rick Calvert’s blog post that very intensely depicted his experiences with one particularly aggravating situation at the BlogWorld & New Media Expo.
It’s impossible not to have sympathy for Rick and the many others who shared their frustrating experiences of something similar in response to his blog. This isn’t just a case of a show manager wanting to control his own show or protect his own bottom line.
A good show manager, like Rick, isn’t just good at lining some booths up in an exhibit hall. He’s good at creating a community around an industry or a special interest.
The good show manager-community builder knows a little bit about how to do that and knows what distracts from the goal and what doesn’t. Outlaw non-exhibitors passing out invitations that give the impression their events are somehow connected to your show don’t help.
These are not new issues. People and companies have been suitcasing and outboarding for a long time. The tactics have changed—some now call themselves “guerilla marketers”—but it’s been a problem for decades.
In discussions I’ve listened to over the years, what seemed like the most visionary of show managers—or maybe just the most Pollyannaish—have said the best defense is to work to convert the suitcasers and outboarders to customers of the show.
That’s probably still the best advice but, as in Rick’s case, sometimes it just doesn’t work.
What has changed though is that technology and the open source world we live in have made it so much easier for individuals and companies to decide they don’t need to work within traditional institutions to accomplish their goals.
It isn’t even the case that they don’t need the old-school tradeshow or other traditional marketing strategies to sell their products and services or even to network with peers. If and when they go to your show, attendees and exhibitors (or their outlaw brethren) don’t necessarily even need hotels (heard of airbnb.com?) or taxis (see lyft.me).
There are plenty of detours around the traditional way that face-to-face marketing has been conducted.
The thing is: You like it too!
You like interacting with your audience via social media rather than delivering marketing messages by way of postcard or printed brochure. Sure, you don’t have the same control over the relationship you once had, but it seems to be worth it to most of you.
The most egregious cases—the kind Rick Calvert spoke of, and you’ve all had them—have to be handled with old-fashioned impunity. However, in the long run, if we’re going to enjoy the rewards of this new world order, we have to find our way through the challenges it creates as well.
Michael Hart is executive editor of Expo and expoweb.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.