There’s nothing worse than getting everything on the trade show floor the night before the doors open, heading to the hotel for some shut eye, and returning to find someone has stolen something highly valuable from your trade show booth. It isn’t something anyone likes to think about, but if you don’t have a good security strategy for your stuff, you might find this happening to you.
Luckily, there are ways to guard against being a victim of theft. Short of packing it all up and bringing it with you, there are simple steps you can take to protect your stuff, most of which you probably never considered. Let’s take a look at them.
Label it incorrectly. Are you taking that high-ticket giveaway item that everyone is after, sticking it in a crate, and labeling it “giveaway?” Don’t do this! Instead, label it “Order forms” or something equally boring. Then, label the box containing your order forms “Giveaway.” Do you think that thief is going to like opening up that crate, expecting an iPad Mini, only to find a stack of order forms? Most definitely not.
Craft an imperfect container. Usually, people want to make sure their high value items are toted in style, sometimes opting to have a custom case made just for that item to ensure its safety throughout its travels. If you’re planning on being one of these people, consider having a sleeper case. Have you heard the term “sleeper” in regards to hot rods and muscle cars? In case you haven’t, I’ll explain it. Basically, it’s a rust bucket that pulls up to the line for a street race, leaving everyone scratching their heads. How can this rust bucket stand a chance against that sleek red Camaro? But then the race begins, and the rust bucket leaves that shiny Camaro in the dust, winning the race. Make a case that people would look at and think, “I don’t need to look inside that ratty old box.” Build a wooden case instead of purchasing a plastic one, and make sure there are details that are off, such as a cover that looks crooked when it’s closed. No one would ever expect your pricey LCD monitors are inside!
Cloak it in black. Sometimes, just wrapping everything in black wrap is enough to keep thieves from proceeding. If they have to unwrap something, they’ll probably move on. Choose black as your color to “keep it in the shadows” so to speak.
Don’t leave the booth unattended. This probably doesn’t need to be mentioned, but I will anyway. Never leave your exhibit booth without ensuring another employee is there to keep watch over it all. If you have to step away and no one else is available, enlist the help of your trade show neighbors. Most times, they will be more than happy to keep an eye on things so you can run to the rest room or grab water. In fact, they may ask you to return the favor!
Staff accordingly. Sometimes, thieves take advantage of exhibitors who appear to be swamped with visitors. When they see the two booth workers involved in demos or conversations with others, they see a perfect opportunity to swoop in unnoticed and steal that laptop or iPad. Be sure that you are staffing your booth according to the number of projected attendees. It’s better to be overstaffed and prepared for those busy moments than to be understaffed and lose a lot more than a day’s pay! Not only can you lose your high-ticket items, you can also lose leads, as people won’t want to stand around and wait just to talk with you.
Don’t leave it behind. While a perfect world would allow for you to leave everything set up as it was during the show, it is unwise to leave behind pricey technology. Take all tablets, laptops, and any other portable technology with you at the end of each day of the show, and make sure other booth staffers know the importance of doing this as well. Leaving these items behind is just setting yourself up for a thief to swoop in when you leave for the night and taking it all.
Lock it up. Invest in locks for all of your audio and video equipment. There are many options available on the market that will make it impossible for thieves to take away your monitors, iPads, and computers, like Kensington locks. Make sure you get the appropriate lock for the item you are securing, and that you do it properly. Thieves aren’t going to take the time to fight with the lock, moving on to the next booth, hoping it is a lot easier.
Track it. While some items might not be worth the expense, your high-ticket items could be fitted with an inconspicuous GPS tracking device. In this way, if someone does make off with it, you’ll be able to find it, and the thief. It’s like a 24/7 bodyguard without actually having to hire a bodyguard.
Keep it safe. For those items that just can’t be locked down, consider investing in a portable safe. Now, don’t purchase the cheapest safe you can find, like a fire safe. The locks are easily picked open, so spend the extra money and invest in a highly secure option. The more difficult it is to get into, the better your chances the thief will give up and move on to the next booth. Be sure that the only people with access to the keys or passcode are staff members, and that they take the keys with them at the end of each day.
Take it down. When the show ends, don’t just leave your monitors and tablets laying around, waiting for the crew charged with dismantling your booth to arrive and pack it all up. Take the initiative and take down anything electronic and pricey, storing it out of sight until the crew arrives. Again, keeping things hidden from view is often your best defense.
Thieves don’t want to work too hard to steal anything. They want to get it over with as quickly as possible. Even employing simple techniques like storing a box with the item inside within a box within another box within yet another box can prevent theft. And don’t think that things can’t be taken during the busiest time of the show. It’s quite the opposite in fact, and you’ll find that the distraction of being super busy is all a thief needs to make off with your stuff.
Have you ever been the victim of trade show booth theft?