What's With the Rules?

May 19, 2012

Lisa Apolinski

Lisa Apolinski is a professional speaker, blogger, and digital strategist. With her company, 3DogWrite.com, she works with event managers to get their message to attendees, particularly through digital channels, on and off the show floor.

I read a LinkedIn post on the frustration we have all felt dealing with the never-ending list of rules and regulations for trade shows.  I believe the post even asked, what is with all these rules? 

Let me share some of my thoughts on that subject.

1. No room for interpretation. Let’s be honest – people like to ‘interpret’ rules in a way that benefits them.  I can say that I have bent the rules to get six more inches on my structure and block a competitor’s sign – and I have seen the error of my ways. With years of experience in dealing with exhibitors’ behavior and having a written document, they are setting up expectations of the inflexibility that comes around trade shows. And it is a necessity, due to the next point I will make.



2. Common sense is not so common. Or in other words, people are not always bright. The worst part is we do not, as a society, hold people accountable for obtaining knowledge. That is why a cup of hot coffee has to say HOT – contents will burn.  They have to have endless lists of rules that seem obvious because attendees will blame the convention center for not informing them.  And so there is no question as to what is expected, the rules are listed so you cannot say ‘I didn’t know it.



3. Level playing field. One final item is to ensure that there is a level playing field for all attendees.  I know I would certainly run amuck trying to get the best space and as much signage as possible in my booth. By establishing fair and standard ground rules, we all have to stay within those boundaries if we want to play. I have seen one booth nearly shut down because they didn’t adhere to the rules and they initially refused to adhere to them. By exhibiting and paying your fee, you are agreeing to a contract with the convention center and all the other attendees there – that you will accept and abide by those rules and regulations.


So, be happy that the rules exist. I would hate to be an attendee in the late 1800’s where anything was fair game and you can have a booth today and have a burnt down pile of dust tomorrow.  


Rules are what keeps our trade shows a fun and pleasant experience for all.

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