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Conference, Trade Show & Meetings Theft

Aaron Johnson

Take note Show Managers & Meeting Planners! Meeting theft is on the rise at National and International Conferences.

Make the suspect's job harder and remove the reason or opportunity for them to attempt to steal items in the first place. The goal is to make them think twice about victimizing your client's booths, ballrooms and break out rooms through prevention.

When you contract professional security services make sure that the company understands your expectations and the protocol when it comes to theft or missing items. A security company's job is to prevent, deter and ultimately discourage theft in the Exhibit Halls, Ballrooms, Break Out Rooms and overall meeting space surroundings with their presence, patrols and diligent access control measures.

However, these measure are by no means a guarantee to alleviate theft. Therefore, make sure you contract adequate staffing levels for the amount of square footage you want the security officer to watch. In other words, don't skimp on services by having one security officer watch registration, the exhibit hall and a cyber cafe station which may encompass 50,000 square feet. It is impossible for one officer to patrol that large area to prevent theft.

Leaving valuable property at exhibit booths, i.e. laptops, tablets, purses, cell phones, even for 5 minutes unattended is not recommended. The number one way to prevent these thefts, is to simply remove everything deemed valuable by locking items in a secure cabinet at the booth or ultimately, taking the items with you. As funny as it may sound, that means even hiding a bowl of candy as there have been many situations where the booth candy is all gone when the exhibitor returns in the morning.

Having break rooms unattended for long periods of time with laptops and AV Equipment out in plain view is not a safe plan either. We encourage planners to coordinate with hotel and convention managers when break out rooms need to be secured or have security watch over them when the group is going from room to room for sessions.

Many times you find these rooms are unattended and wide open and hotel guest or the general public that access the same common areas can walk into these rooms. On the west coast, several years ago, there was a trend of guys dressed in suits acting like they were part of the conference who then walked into these empty break out rooms and walked right out with high powered expensive HD projectors. No one questioned them as they were wearing suits and acted like they were part of the group.

Just like outside of the conference industry, homeowner's associations have developed neighborhood watch groups, meetings need to develop similar watch diligence among security, attendees, exhibitors and other show participants during the days of these meetings.

Everyone must do their part in not having anyone become a victim to theft by remaining diligent and take a moment to observe his or her surrounding area and watch for unusual activity and/or suspicious people hanging around that may not look like the normal attendee, etc.

Additionally, we have been seeing an alarming rate of  theft of display items when they were not meant to be samples. Many exhibitors bring and distribute company marketing products and give away samples during the course of a conference. Attendees end up taking marketing items from hundreds of booths, which may include but not limited to pens, toys, ball, cups, bottles, documents, shot glasses, etc.  Unfortunately, we are finding out that some exhibitors have had items taken perhaps more during the off hours or early hours, prior to their early morning arrival, from their booth, that are valuable or proprietary display items only and not meant to be taken. Perhaps many people unknowingly take these items which are subsequently being reported as theft. In many of these cases it is hard to ascertain if theft was the actual motive or the individual(s) just did not realize that they were for display only. Especially when no signage indicated they were not to be taken.

In any event, we strongly suggest that exhibitors make it exceptionally clear what items at their booths are give aways as opposed to something that is on display only. It has been happening quite a bit over the past year.

Let's enjoy these meetings smartly across the country without having to deal with a important stolen personal possessions by remaining aware of your surroundings and secure your valuables. Help security help you. For more information on how you can not become a conference theft victim, email Security Consultant, Aaron Johnson, with Johnson & Associates, abj@jnasecurity.com.

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