How to Prevent Theft from Your Trade Show Booth

June 20, 2019

Shawn Scarlata

Shawn Scarlata is the founder and owner of Mobile Video Guard, which provides temporary monitored video surveillance for trade shows, events, construction sites and facilities across the country. 

Trade shows are a time to get away, network with other people in your industry, make new friends and promote your business. For other vendors, trade shows are simply a way of life because it’s the lifeblood of their business.

No matter which category you fall into, you must take trade show security into consideration. If you don’t, all that fun can go away in a moment because of one little security slip. 

Who’s on the Take

When we talk about preventing theft from your trade show booth, most of us think about the shifty-eyed criminal walking around in a hoodie and casing all the displays. While trade shows are a common target for criminals, you should also think about the risks from others.

None of us wants to think that another vendor might try to steal our stuff. But sometimes it’s not the stuff they’re after. Think corporate espionage.

Depending on your industry, trade shows and exhibits are the perfect scenes for corporate spies, so make sure you think about digital property as much as physical property. 

What They’re After

Theft at trade shows isn’t always the big stuff. We’ve already mentioned valuable items and corporate spying. But small items that are easily slipped into the pockets of smalltime criminals are also at risk.

Freebies and giveaways are common incentives to show visitors. We don’t often think of it as theft, but we know freeloaders are out there and that they don’t mind filling their bags with your promotional items and samples. 

Also, consider your trade show “hardware.” Things like tablets, smartphones and laptops are often a quick and easy target to grab while you are busy with a potential customer.

When It Happens

The most obvious time to get free stuff is when you’re away from the booth. The cardinal rule is this: never leave your booth unattended during the show. If you didn’t bring a partner with you who can watch your table, ask another vendor that you feel you can trust to keep an eye on things. 

There is always a big concern about nighttime security—what happens after the trade show ends for the day and before it begins the next day. 

The pros, those going to dozens of trade shows every year, always keep their valuable items under lock and key. But that’s not enough. You must be able to prevent the entire thing from being carried off, so try using a steel cable going through all the handles of carrying cases.

An even better option is monitored video surveillance, with features such as strobe lights to act as a deterrent and audio, where the monitoring service can speak to the would-be thief.

How to Improve Your Trade Show Security

The first ingredient in trade show security is common sense. To recap a few of those:

•Never leave your booth unattended.
• Keep high-value items under lock and key if possible.
• Hide trade secret items and non-display valuables out of sight.
• Have a plan to protect your things overnight.
• Form a “neighborhood watch” with other vendors that you know.
• Mislabel your boxes on purpose. On boxes with valuables, mark them as sales brochures or something else unappealing.
• Talk to other vendors to see what methods they use to safeguard their things.
• Remember that competitors can pose a security risk in certain industries.
• Talk to security staff and ask them what they see most often. Ask them for any tips that might offer.
• Consider overnight video security. Having visible video cameras with signage indicating live monitoring can be a powerful crime deterrent.
• Use GPS trackers on expensive items.
• Whenever possible, have at least one other attendant at your booth for times when you get busy with customers. Another set of eyes on merchandise can make a big difference.
• Keeping your things organized makes it easier to notice if something is wrong at a glance.

It is also important to consider security outside the booth. Your valuables are also potentially exposed on your way to and from the show. Whether you have a locking trailer or exposed containers in the back of a truck, they are at risk every time you stop to fuel up, go to a restaurant or overnight at the hotel.

Planning Is Key

In the end, one of the biggest assets you have in protecting your assets is awareness. It’s worth taking some time to think about security risks before your next event. Just being aware of the risks will force you to be more alert on the floor.

The more you know about what happens inside the mind of the criminal, the better you’ll be able to throw a wrench into his plans. Talk to other vendors, the trade show contractor and anyone else who might help you gain some insight.


Don’t miss any event-related news: Sign up for our weekly e-newsletter HERE and engage with us on TwitterFacebookLinkedIn and Instagram!

Add new comment

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Enter the characters shown in the image.

Partner Voices

With more than 2,000 rooms being added to Dallas’ hotel inventory in the coming years, the city is experiencing the second-largest hotel boom in the nation. From top brands like Virgin Hotels to independent and interesting properties, like HALL Arts Hotel, Dallas boasts a hotel type and price point for every preference and budget.