Cheat Sheet Trade Show Security

What you need to know to keep your show free from theft and unwanted intruders

The security RFP

•  Start with the convention centre or hotel security plan and build from there.

•  Identify areas of specific concern (I&D, registration desk, after-hours coverage, secured holding area or VIPs) and when security personnel are needed.

•  Specify the number and level of security personnel that will be needed for each area.

•  Provide a history of any prior security breaches or security issues (such as political issues that may result in demonstrations or threats) that are ongoing.

•  Indicate when lock-down begins and when the floor is open to exhibitors and attendees.

•  Ask the facility how docks are guarded and managed by in-house teams, know how many entrances will need coverage and check with the local security contractor about the facility’s history of security issues and the reputation of the area.

•  To get a rough idea of what to expect in your quotes, multiply personnel by average hourly rates quoted by local security firms and by the number of hours over the entire course of the show. Include 24/7 positions, relief workers and supervisors.

•  Send out RFPs with your requirements and negotiate a final contract.

Have a written security plan

■ Distribute the plan to building security, security contractor personnel and your staff

■ Include key contact names and cell phone numbers for all building security and security contractor supervisors, including you and your staff

■ Describe uniforms and badging for both building security personnel and security contractor personnel

■ Include the security schedule, covering types, locations and shift changes of all personnel

■ Spell out where building security is used and where your security team takes over

■ Delineate the building’s procedures for security/safety situations

■ Provide diagrams of building entrances, elevators and escalators, show floor and meeting room entrances, docks and freight elevators, back-of-house hallways, tunnels, locations of house phones and emergency equipment, etc.

■ Include which radio channels to use in case of emergency

■ Decide in advance how disturbances or unauthorized people will be handled at entrances and on the show floor

Security for exhibitors

• Require all exhibitors to show proof of liability and theft insurance.

• Make sure exhibitors know they’re responsible for their own valuables.

• Give exhibitors a tip sheet on security, instructing them to cover materials, take valuables with them and not to leave things unattended.

• Provide a secured storage area for exhibitors’ convenience. Use a claim ticket system and require ID both to store and pick up checked items.

• Give exhibitors the opportunity to hire security people from your official security contractor for their individual booths.

Nine types of show security

1. Badge checkers, ensuring entrants to the floor have appropriate credentials to participate

2. Theft control, usually a highly visible uniformed presence (armed or unarmed) on the floor, in booths or in areas overlooking the show floor to deter crime

3. Undercover personnel, dressed and badged as attendees or staff, who monitor the show floor for theft, corporate espionage, suspicious behaviour or suitcasing

4. Dock security, checking paperwork and identifications, especially during installation and dismantle hours

5. After-hours security, monitoring the locked entrances to the show floor, making trips around the floor, keeping an eye on cleaning crews, ensuring no unauthorized personnel are present

6. VIP escorts, accompanying speakers or high-profile guests, controlling public access

7. Transportation monitors, stationed at shuttle pickup and loading areas and sometimes onboard buses

8. Building security, responsible for monitoring public areas outside the show floor, perimeters of the building and parking lots

9. Local police, responsible for streets, sidewalks and adjacent areas that aren’t the property of the facility, controlling traffic and protestors

Rules of thumb – Always have uniformed security where money is exchanged (registration desk, bookstore) and anywhere small but valuable goods are displayed. – Around 60 percent of security concerns for trade shows involve preventing theft, including corporate espionage. Next on organizers’ minds is access control (ensuring no one is entering with old or falsified badges and that only authorized people are in particular areas). – The most critical time for security for exhibitors is during installation and up to the start of the show. Losses that occur early can ruin their participation.

Tips for enhancing security

■ Know what other groups may be sharing the facility and be sure their badges won’t be mistaken for yours.

■ Offer a small incentive to badge checkers for catching imitations.

■ Enforce penalties for people who are caught stealing or breaking rules. Expel them from the current show and future participation or suspend them from the association for a period of time. Be sure both exhibitors and attendees know the penalties.

■ Conduct building walk-throughs with your security people. Look for airwalls that don’t lock securely and doors that close too slowly.

■ Check with the state licensing agency to ensure you select a security contractor that’s certified and bonded and that all its employees have had recent background checks. CVBs and convention centress may supply lists of recommended suppliers.


Leave a Reply