Thieves in broad daylight at trade show events

June 03, 2014

It seems that in our age of consumerism we have managed to accumulate more and more things for people to steal. This includes everything from identities, ideas, inventions and even inventories of things we need to keep our trade show booth alive. With all the worry about ensuring that our exhibit and peripherals arrive at the show on time, leaving security as a nice too item leaves you vulnerable to the whim of some unscrupulous person who sees something of value in an unmanned booth and takes it for his own.

theifThe reality is that  products, equipment, computers, giveaways and personal items disappear from exhibitors booths at an alarming rate and the exhibitor has very little they can do to compensate for the loss. Planning for theft makes an incredible amount of sense and should be an important element on the show checklist. You should focus on three areas of show participation: before, during and after.

Before the show

Make a complete list of everything you are shipping to the show including items that your staff will be carrying with them.

  • Number code your boxes rather than identifying the contents of each (unless you are required to do differently as a customs regulation if you are crossing borders).
  • Have a serious discussion with your insurance broker to make sure you are covered for off-premise thefts.
  • Have back-up products ready in case you need to ship them last minute to replace something that was taken.
  • Tags, cables and cable locks should be included in the booth package that you prepare. Don’t forget to add a set of instructions for your on-site staff so they know how to secure valuables.
  • For one-of-a-kind items such as prototypes, install a tracking device so that police will have an easier time finding and returning them to you quickly.
  • If your booth is filled with expensive items you might consider installing a video monitor. When you are installing the system be careful of potential blind spots.

At the show

While show management will have security for the show floor, you are required to provide your own security for your booth.

  • Valuables such as video monitors, laptops and expensive products should be stored in a safe place in the evenings when the show is closed.
  • If you have a lot of high-value items consider a video monitoring service that covers the entire booth space.
  • During show hours ensure that your booth is always staffed. Never leave it unattended.
  • If something is stolen, report it to show management immediately. They may be able to post guards at the door who will be on the lookout for suspicious looking packages or people.
  • Warn staff about the dangers of leaving personal cell-phones and laptops unattended.
  • Ensure that product specifications, brochures and other property information are given to people who you hope will become potential customers. This means that your booth staff should engage everyone who visits the booth in conversation. Theft of intellectual property is just as costly as losing a few expensive bits of technology.

After the show

  • Make sure someone from your organization stays while your booth and products are packed.  Have this person confirm that those items on your original manifest are returned and signed for when they are picked up by your shipper.

Is security worth all the bother? To paraphrase the old saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

You have so many things to orchestrate to make your exhibit a success; don’t let the acts of thieves derail them.

Guest Blogger:  Barry Siskind

Barry is a trade show consultant, trainer, speaker and internationally recognized expert in trade and consumer shows.  Visit his website at 

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