Travel Blog Exchange: How Suitcasing and Outboarding Harm Events

Unfortunately, at this year’s TBEX conference in Toronto, we were forced to cancel one of our speaker’s talks at the last minute due to the speaker’s continued violations of our speaker and attendee agreements. This caused a bit of controversy at the time, so I want to explain why we made the decision we did, and to help everyone understand the broader ethical responsibility that event organizers have to their attendees, sponsors, and speakers.

I am not going to use any names. The identity of the person isn’t important to the broader points I’m going to make.

This person was a speaker at TBEX in Keystone last year. Their company is the sort that could also potentially be a TBEX sponsor. They are very active with travel bloggers and part of the business is providing DMOs with content marketing created by bloggers. That is, by definition, a qualified TBEX sponsor. They chose not to sponsor the event. We do not require qualified sponsoring businesses to be a sponsor in order to speak at TBEX, but we certainly encourage them to do so.

This company decided to host an unofficial party during TBEX Keystone that conflicted with our host sponsor’s official opening night party. They did it without our knowledge or consent, yet used our name to promote the event. Many attendees were confused and thought this was an official event. Whenever we learn about something like this beforehand we try to prevent it, because having conflicting events is harmful to our sponsors and confusing to our attendees. We always assume people are acting in good faith and are competing with us and our sponsors unintentionally, so we ask them if they can reschedule their event to a non-conflicting time, support an official event instead, or possibly cancel their conflicting event.

Last year when we learned about the unofficial party, TBEX’s Conference Director, Mary Jo, approached the speaker and explained the ethical problems of their company hosting this conflicting event. They chose not to cancel their event, but did delay the start of their party a bit. It still conflicted with the opening party, although there was slightly less of an overlap. I also talked with this speaker again in March of this year, explained why the party last year was a conflict, and reiterated Mary Jo’s points regarding our responsibility to our sponsors and attendees. We requested that in the future the speaker or someone from their company notify us if they intended to host an outboarded event in order to avoid a conflict with our schedule. I also encouraged the speaker to consider becoming an official sponsor instead to work within our system and avoid potential conflicts altogether.

We thought we had resolved the issue, that everyone was operating in good faith, and decided to have this person speak again at TBEX 2013 in Toronto.

In mid-May, shortly before TBEX Toronto, we were informed by our host city that an unofficial event was being promoted using the TBEX name and that it was in direct conflict with the hosted blogger tours they had worked hard to put together. These tours were very important to our hosts, and the conflicting event put them in an awkward position. This was a company with whom they could potentially do business, but that was instead harming their business.

I emailed our speaker on May 17th, two weeks before the start of our Toronto event, and let him know they had again scheduled a conflicting event and that it was harming our sponsors and us. I let the speaker know that we felt betrayed after our previous conversations.

the response was, “I am not rescheduling, and you cannot make me.”

Of course, that statement is true. We can’t stop anyone from hosting an outboarded event during one of our conferences. I tried to schedule a phone call with him to resolve it. He said we could talk, but again told me there was nothing I could do that would change his mind and that, somehow, it was our fault that he decided to compete with our event.

At this point, we had an internal discussion about whether we should cancel his speaking appearance at the conference. It was apparent he had now decided to be a competitor and not cooperate with us. In the end, we made the decision to keep his session on the program, but knew that we would not be inviting him back to future events until we had come to a mutually beneficial understanding.

Then, on the day of the pre-BEX blogger day tours before the TBEX conference began, I received a complaint from a sponsor. Someone was handing out flyers – with the TBEX name on them – in the main lobby of the Toronto Convention Center in front of our registration desk, encouraging attendees to go to this speaker’s unofficial off-site event in direct conflict with the blogging trips. This is what’s known in the conference and trade show industry as “suitcasing.”

What is Suitcasing and Outboarding?

Let's stop for a moment and define a couple of terms.
Outboarding is when a company that should be a sponsor of an event instead decides to host their own competing event without the consent of the original event organizer. Outboarding steals from event organizers directly by costing them revenue from the potential sponsor, as well as revenue from any other sponsors of the outboarded event that might have otherwise been spent on official events. Outboarding also steals attention away from official sponsors of the official event, drawing attendees and media attention away from sponsors. Lastly, it is deceitful and harmful to attendees by confusing them into thinking they are supporting the official event when really they are not.

Suitcasing is when a company either registers as an attendee, or has no badge at all, when they should be registered as a sponsor of the event. They are actively trying to recruit business from attendees – by handing out flyers in hallways, leaving printed material on tables, etc. – without paying to be a sponsor. Obviously, this is directly stealing revenue from the conference, as well as stealing from the official sponsors and being deceitful and confusing to the attendees. Nothing upsets sponsors quite as much as a suitcaser. They are always reported to the event organizer by an angry sponsor.

Outboarding and suitcasing are both very common at conferences and trade shows – this is by no means a TBEX-only issue. I am sure, now that you know what they are, you can recall several times when you have either attended an outboarding event or been approached by a suitcaser. You may even be guilty of doing it yourself. Most people don’t realize how harmful these things can be, but if you take either to the extreme of “what if everyone did that?” you can see how there would no longer be an event at all – and then everyone would lose.

When I heard from the TBEX Toronto sponsor about the suitcasing going on in front of our own registration desk, I was furious. I immediately approached the two young women in question – who tried to hand me a flyer. I told them that we had already told the person responsible for organizing the event they were promoting that it was in violation of our rules, and that they had to leave the building immediately. I also told them that if they were caught handing out flyers in the building again we would revoke their passes and they would not be allowed to attend TBEX.

At that point, I emailed the speaker informing him of what had just happened, and told him that because of his continued violation of our rules his speaking appearance was officially canceled. I also asked him to immediately cease and desist in using our company name to promote his competing event.

He, of course, used this as a promotional tool for his competing event. He held his talk at a venue across the street during our conference and played the victim.

He approached me at our official party later that night and asked if we could talk. I said yes. He insulted me immediately, I responded in kind, and the conversation degraded from there. I told him he was wrong for intentionally harming our business, especially after we had specifically cautioned him about this on multiple occasions and despite our repeated attempts to resolve the issue professionally. He insisted that I and TBEX were wrong, and rather than punishing him we should be grateful for all of his “promotion” and “support” of our event. He asked why I hadn’t revoked his badge completely, and I told him that, for our part, we were still trying to resolve the issue. From my standpoint, all he needed to do was apologize, admit he was wrong, and then we could repair the relationship. Instead, the insulting and name-calling continued, I lost my temper and stooped to the same level, and eventually he walked away.

Throughout this entire drama, from the behind-the-scenes conversations before the conference right up through the confrontations at the conference itself, TBEX never once publicly mentioned what was going on with this person (or his company) by name. We never called him out on social media, in our newsletter, on our blog, or in public in any way. We have still not publicly discussed this matter using his or his company’s name – even in this blog post. We tried, at every point in the process, to resolve the conflict professionally and ethically. And at every point, he refused to see our position or make any move toward compromise.

Why are Suitcasing and Outboarding Unethical?

Why breaking the rules harms everyone.
Event organizers sell a product just like any other business. Our product is the event. We spend anywhere from thousands to hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars marketing our product. We bring as many qualified people as we possibly can to one place all at the same time.  We set the prices for our products and we create the terms and conditions (T&Cs) around how we are willing to provide our products. We create these T&Cs for attendees, speakers and sponsors to protect ourselves as well as our exhibitors and attendees from unethical people and companies. Our goal is to create a level playing field for everyone. In our terms and conditions we ask that all companies who are trying to sell something to our attendees purchase a booth space or in TBEX case a table top exhibit. This is where they are supposed to pitch their products to customers. We have rules prohibiting them from selling their product in the aisles, in front or inside their fellow exhibitors booths. (Yeah I know its crazy you need a rule explaining that but unethical people try and do this all the time).

The cost to exhibit at an event is usually significantly higher than to attend. So when a Suitcaser decides to buy an attendee badge and sell their products in the aisles instead of purchasing a booth; they have just decided to steal from the event organizer. They have decided that they will find customers there but they are unwilling to pay the price the event organizer is asking.  They have decided to unfairly compete with the other exhibitors, and they have decided to approach attendees outside the marketplace where they expect to be sold to. Ever been in a session when someone stands up to ask a question but instead tells you all about their product and why people should buy it?

That is a Suitcaser and that is unethical. It is also angers everyone in the room. Have you ever had someone walk up to you in the aisle or the lobby or at a party of an event who handed you a flyer or a free sample while trying to sell you their awesome product?

That is Suitcasing and if that person doesn’t have an exhibitor badge they are definitely a Suitcaser. There are some exceptions to that rule where an attendee may ask directly about someones product, but most of the time it’s unethical and rude.

Outboarding is similar and even more damaging. Again this company has recognized that the event organizer has done a good job at marketing their event and delivered customers to one place at one time. The Outboarder make a conscious decision to steal from the event organizer and host an event off-site without the consent of the organizer. Many times they even use the event organizers brand to confuse attendees into thinking this is a sanctioned event.  When an Outboarder does this during show hours, they have just stolen customers from other exhibitors, sponsors and speakers. When they do this in conflict with official after hours events they have just stolen customers from the sponsors of those events.

There are exceptions to this rule. Some “unofficial events” are held with the blessing of the show organizer. We cooperate with stakeholders all the time. For example, Travel Massive has hosted events at the last three TBEX conferences. All of them were done in cooperation with us.  We have done it ourselves. Last year we moved our New Media Expo event to January in Las Vegas. Our dates overlapped the Consumer Electronics show and were close to Affiliate Summit which were both also being held in Las Vegas. We called both event organizers to tell them about our potential date conflict and received their approval before we contracted with our venue. We have done the same thing with BlogHer and other conferences in the past. 

Now, let’s discuss the ethics of a responsible event organizer.

First, our business is to produce an event that brings various stakeholders together – including buyers, sellers, media, and industry thought leaders. We create a marketplace where transactions can occur, educational settings for attendees, and networking opportunities between peers, customers, and vendors. We work for an entire year (and invest a significant amount of money) marketing this event to attendees and sponsors in order to encourage them to attend an event that takes place over a few short days.

We are ethically bound to provide a level playing field to all parties. We have to remain neutral – we have to be Switzerland. We are also bound to protect our sponsors and our attendees. Without them there would be no event and we would be out of business.

As I said earlier, suitcasing and outboarding are common at events like ours. (see this post by BlogHer co-founder Elisa Camahort Page on the same issue at BlogHer.) Throughout my career I have approached at least a hundred outboarders and suitcasers, most of whom apologize and start following the rules. Some try to avoid you and keep doing what they’re doing even after being cautioned. I have taken badges from and ejected a dozen or so suitcasers over the years who refused to quit after being warned.

But this was a first for me. In this case, our speaker was knowingly both suitcasing and outboarding, and then when we took action in removing him from the program, he insisted he and his company were victims who were actually doing us a favor by harming us, our sponsors, and our attendees. When he was caught and confronted he tried to continue to use it to his advantage in publicly promoting himself, his event, and his now-canceled talk. Incredible.

At one point this speaker told me, “You don’t own Toronto. You can’t stop me.” He is absolutely right. While every show organizer has the right to remove anyone’s badge and ask him or her to leave the event for any reason, no one can legally stop an outboarder from stealing your marketing and hard work or from harming your sponsors and attendees. Event organizers can and do have signed contracts with hotels and convention centers that prevent competing events from taking place at the same time.

But there is no doubt than when outboarders and suitcasers decide to do this they have changed from cooperating participants in an event to competitors. More than that, they have made the decision to be unethical competitors – otherwise they would hold their events in another city or on another date that was not in direct competition with yours. It is clearly an unethical practice. You can – and we did – deny them the opportunity to steal our business and harm our speakers and sponsors right in front of our face.

Author Rick Calvert is the CEO of TBEX and CEO & Co-founder of BlogWorld & New Media Expo

Comments

  1. Nice take Rick and thanks for sharing all of this. I can totally see where you are coming from on this.

    One thought….you said, you can’t stop an outboarder “from stealing your marketing and hard work”.

    I get in the event sense this *could be* true – but the same thing could be said of anyone that has a message and a place to share it or gather momentum for it. It is built on top of some other knowledge or marketing. In your case, it’s Travel Blogging.

    Is TBEX “outboarding and suitcasing” the Travel Blogging industry/movement?

    Just asking – I’m not sure.

    Not saying I’m Mother Teresa on this either – just thinking about this.

  2. I had never heard the terms “suitcasing” and “outboarding” before reading your post, thanks for sharing this. I’m sorry to hear that TBEX had to deal with this type of behaviour, so unfortunate.

  3. Thank you Sean. I think that’s apples and oranges. The hard part for people who don’t produce events to understand is our product is a place and time. People fly from all over the world to attend TBEX.

    Our marketing for TBEX all revolves around that. Our event will be held in X city on X day at X time.

    Our job is to deliver buyers, sellers, speakers and attendees to that place at that time. If someone tries to capitalize on that effort without compensating us for it, it’s wrong.

    A more direct comparison would be selling candy bars in front of someone’ grocery store. The girl scouts and lots of other non profits do this, but they only do it with the store’s permission and they don’t use the store’s name when they do.

  4. I wish I was brave enough to use my name says:

    Rick,

    I won’t get into the personal issues between the speaker and MJ that lead one to believe this wasn’t really a outboarding issue as much as it was a pissing contest. I go to many conferences including BlogHer and BlogWorld. I remember a time when you had an unauthorized party on a boat at BlogHer and it was unauthorized. I can prove it because I still have an email from your conference director Deb inviting me. How is this different?

    When this whole thing exploded on Twitter, I read a tweet that wondered why you didn’t ask David Armano not to speak after Edelman threw an unauthorized party. I have been to Pat Flynn’s unofficial parties at BlogWorld too. This isn’t the first case of outboarding or suitcasing at any of your conferences but it does lead one to wonder why Ross Borden is the only scapegoat.

    • Mary Jo Manzanares says:

      I have no idea where this rumor started, but I can deny it’s validity.

      You may have interpreted my business discussion with him after Keystone as something other than what it was – it certainly wasn’t personal. Believing the business situation had been resolved, he was invited to speak in Toronto. Clearly no personal issue there either. When the Toronto situation was brought to our attention it was handled by Rick as he has referenced above.

    • Nice to see you Calamity.

      Actually if we ever plan anything around another event (which is very rare) we always approach the conference organizers ahead of time and get their consent. We have supported the blogger lounge at SXSW with their consent and hosted a couple of meet ups at other events again with their consent. Sometimes we sponsor the event itself like one of the parties at TypeA Parent last year. Sometimes we trade booth space or passes with other event organizers (A very common practice).

      We took some of our customers out for an afternoon in San Diego because we live in San Diego. I spoke to Lisa about it before hand and invited her to keynote our next event.

      You don’t hear about other incidents because most people apologize when they realize they made an honest mistake and support an official event instead or they make some accommodation so our paying sponsors are happy. This happened in 2010 With Johnny Truant who ended up working with us on our virtual ticket.

      We always give people the benefit of the doubt and we always do this behind the scenes. Pat approached us ahead of time and held his event with our blessing. Affiliate Summit has held events at our conference with our blessing. So have Cliff Ravenscraft and many others.

      The bottom line is when a conference organizer asks you to cooperate and you decide instead to compete then they have every right to block your access to their audience. If you decide to go ahead and steal their audience, you are unethical. Period.

      • Me again says:

        I’m not Jalamity (or Dawn who posted on your Facebook page) but we are part of the same group of bloggers who are trying to determine if this speaker is a scapegoat. Hardly anyone in our private group wants to publicly address this so I am. My employer is one of your sponsors so I’d rather not identify myself because I don’t want my personal feelings to screw up your relationship with a sponsor.

        For the BlogHer party you didn’t have permission. I know because I asked Dave Cynkin if there was a hashtag for the boat party so I can tweet out how jealous I am and he said no because it’s not an official party and he doesn’t want BlogHer to know. I’m sure I still have the email if I search in case you need for me to refresh your memory.

        I also remember when Dave suitcased at SXSW. We even shared a joke about suitcasing and Dave “sshhh’d” me but jokingly. I’m sure if I look through my photos from the blogging lounge that day I can come up with other people at the table who will back me up.

        My point isn’t to start a fight but to point out the hypocrisy.

        • We aren’t spreading rumors. You are and your information is not accurate. We haven’t mentioned anyone’s name you did (I have removed it from your post). You are confusing official with approved. There are lots of unofficial events that happen at conferences with the organizers knowledge and consent. I have explained that in my post and in my comments.

          We supported the blogger lounge at SXSW since it’s first year. We have traded out booth space with them and event passes with them and we have paid to advertise in the official program.

          You say you work for one of our sponsors. I find it shocking that you wouldn’t approach me directly about it. I am happy to have this discussion with you in private if you like and I promise to keep your anonymity.

          I think the example that I posted shows how how much we give people the benefit of the doubt before we take any kind of action to block their access to an event. We never mentioned this person’s name at the event or in social networks. Everything we did was in private.

          I have never heard a complaint about anything we have done at another conference from an event organizer. We attend tons of them. We seek them out when we do so they know we are there and many of us talk to each other offline.

  5. I’d never heard of “suitcasing” or “outboarding,” so thanks for the vocabulary enrichment.

    I wish you’d identified the speaker by name. (And I hope somebody else does–if not here, then via the social-networking grapevine.)

    • Yes, I want to know too. There is no reason to withhold that information from us. The fact you’ve kept it anonymous doesn’t actually protect you legally as there will be a certain number of people (those at the event, for example) who can identify the company.

      I don’t get this either: “no one can legally stop an outboarder from stealing your marketing and hard work or from harming your sponsors and attendees”. Surely you can stop them using your name or attendee database?

      • As I mentioned to Durant, we aren’t trying to embarrass anyone. We aren’t concerned about some legal action. Everything that was posted is accurate.

        Yes we can stop them from using our name but that is usually after the damage is done and it costs more money to pursue something like that legally that it’s worth.

        What we can’t do is stop someone from hosting another event in the same city at the same time targeting our attendees.

  6. Durant, the guilty party was pretty vocal about it on social media at the time, so it’s no secret or anything. Shady business, if you ask me…

  7. I think a simple explanation of the two terms would have been enough to get your point across. The rest is information I didn’t need to know.

    • Tina Ciat says:

      I agree.

      • Agreed, sounds a bit like sour grapes to me. If you want to give a general overview of the terms, that’s one thing but don’t really see the point in bringing something up almost 2 months after the incident took place and then say the intention is not to embarrass anyone when it’s pretty obvious exactly who it was. I don’t even go to TBEX conferences and it took me about 5 min to figure it out.

  8. Rick,
    Thanks for this explanation as I was confused at TBEX Toronto as well when I heard the talk was cancelled and being held across the street.
    These are new terms for me and I’ve attended many a conferences.

  9. Our goal isn’t to embarrass or out anyone Durant. That’s why we always handle these things behind the scenes. I have been meaning to write a post like this for a long time just to educate people. This incident just motivated me to get it done.

    • All it’s doing is creating two tiers in our community – people who know because they were there and people who don’t. Far better to simply name names and be transparent with your community rather than prompt rumour, speculation and gossip.

      • Snarkette says:

        Really? Gossiping creates ‘two tiers’ of those in and out of the know across the whole ‘community’? There must be twelve zillion tiers already by now, it’s a wonder any of us can sleep at night. Also, ‘I’m not brave enough’ takes the bull by the horns and says the persons name in their first comment … pretty big clue right there.

  10. Rick, thanks for sharing your story. It sounds like you handled the situation in a fair manor! This story will be very helpful for other organizers that need to prepare their triage plan for handling similar issues that confront them.

  11. Thanks for the clarification. I wondered what had happened, and had heard different POVs. Proud of the honest, ethical way you acted.

  12. Nancy Largay says:

    Rick, the part of the story the speaker doesn’t get is the hard dollar investment the organizer puts into an event that makes the event a success. Apparently, he doesn’t want to play in your sandbox but wants all the fringe benefits brought to the area by your event, your marketing, your community and your brand. The fact that he opted to market using your brand speaks to how much he values what you and your team do. He sees huge value in what you do, but doesn’t feel any responsibility to be a true part of the community. I only hope the community recognizes he is not a team player and responds accordingly.

  13. I just don’t understand why this would have been necessary – the use of the TBEX trademark and the promotion onsite of the off-site event. The event could have easily been accomplished with those two details. I believe in bloggers have options outside of the larger conference, it can help to further complement the conference experience – even if it wasn’t a part of the conference plan. I think that more exclusive, smaller events provide more value and connections. Not everyone, brand or blogger, functions as well in bigger, more crowded situations. Having options, when attending the conference, even outside of the conference, is what makes people want to go. But, I do agree that using the name and brand to self promote is not the way to go about it.

    • I promise you Carol if everyone did it you wouldn’t have a conference to go to. So what makes one company special compared to everyone else?

  14. Tim Bourquin says:

    Hey Rick, you and I have talked about this before and we’re in full agreement. Nothing gets me upset more at an event than this. The trouble is I still haven’t figured out a way to explain to attendees how this really affects the event and, ultimately, them.

    You’ve done a great job of outlining the ramifications here.

    I always get that “now you understand” smirk when a new event producer is shocked when it happens to them. It’s just a side of things you don’t understand as an attendee. I certainly didn’t before I began organizing tradeshows.

    I guess it comes down to continually educating all parties about the fact that the only reason the event exists is because of the support of attendees and sponsors. Without it, there will be no event to leech off of.

  15. Your boundaries are too vague. You should revoke passes and impose sanctions immediately. None of this “matter is still unresolved” baloney. You gave too many chances and too much slack to a clear violator over the course of two events. It’s not unprofessional to say “the rules are the rules” and impose zero tolerance. And NEVER keep someone on your schedule who doesn’t fully support your efforts.

    • And furthermore, DO name names during when something like this happens, so that paying attendees with an understanding of the issue can be sure to avoid the outboard events. With an explanation and specific info, many otherwise “confused” attendees will be quick to support you.

      • Snarkette says:

        I disagree here and don’t think the onus is on the organiser to have to anti-market an event that is piggybacking for free. Naming and shaming does have an effect though when it becomes relevant.

    • Snarkette says:

      Agreed that on the same ‘infringement’ for a second year in a row, their passes and those of the flyer people should have been whipped off their necks, as well as any promotional material they had with them. I think it’s foul play in this case too, but obviously don’t know if there’s more to the story.

  16. I don’t know any of the involved parties in this incident, and have never been to TBEX. I can say that this type of thing happens in other industries as well – there are two big huge real estate conferences that happen every year (NYC in Jan and SF in July) and unofficial events always occur without permission from the organization that puts on the main event (Inman News). When a bunch of people in a given industry are in a given city at the same time, there will always be vendors who will try anything to reach them in the most economical way possible. It sucks, but not sure there is any real way around it.

  17. I have a legitimate question somewhat related to this….

    Bloggers often host meet-ups for their readers. I do it many times in different cities I visit around the world. It is normal behavior for many bloggers.

    Would you consider holding a reader meet-up during an event a case of Suitcasing or Outboarding?

    • I was just thinking that, Gary. Would love to have an answer on this.

    • No I wouldn’t. Your readers are not our audience and I would encourage any blogger to host a reader / community meet up while they were in any city for any reason.

      Lou Mongello who hosts the Disney Podcast held a listener meet up while at TBEX and had a standing room only crowd.

      The only exception there would be is if your community was our community. Let’s use you as an example Gary. You definitely have some travel bloggers in your audience, but your blog is not directed at travel bloggers. It is directed at travelers. There is no conflict.

      Even if your community was our community. We took the This Week in Travel podcast and turned it into a keynote presentation twice. and you guys hosted a live event in Keystone last year at the foot of the mountain before people headed up the gondolas for the official party. We saw all of those as a win for everyone.

      We have podcasters broadcast live from the show floor at NMX. We plan to do the same at TBEX .

      There are definitely grey areas. It definitely gets confusing for people who don’t run events for a living. This is exactly why I wrote the post so people can ask questions about what crosses the line and what doesn’t and provided a specific example of something that did.

      We don’t see small gatherings as a conflict either. For example people host private dinners all the time for their customers at tradeshows and conferences. That’s fine. That’s part of the process. When you start selling sponsorships to your dinner, then you have crossed the line.

      • Thanks for clarifying this Rick. I am very keen to attend my first TBEX in Dublin in October, and was wondering this same question. Admittedly, I am more likely to stay in Dublin past the date of the conference and try to meet others them, but it may not be possible with some people’s schedules.

        TBEX make it very clear in its speaker guidelines what the rules of attending as a speaker are, and this includes a prohibition on blatant self-promotion and the activities outlined in the post. If speakers cannot abide by the rules, then they shouldn’t attend. I consider it a question of ethics, and ethics do mean different things to different people, but rules are rules, and all speakers are aware of them.

  18. Asian travel blogger says:

    OK, Rick, I get ‘using the TBEX name’ on unauthorized, unapproved meetings – it goes against copyright. I also get how you’d want to prevent poaching of business on the grounds where sponsors are paying good money to promote. But what right have you to control a group of folks when not at your event?

    Are you really trying to proclaim TBEX’s dominion of travel bloggers meeting up in a given city for given duration? That shrieks of Olympic-like protection, the likes of which has brought a rash of outrage in London. Gary’s question is legitimate – meetups not using the TBEX name shouldn’t have to be approved by TBEX Co.

    Perhaps TBEX needs to remember travel bloggers ought to be coming first in these discussions, not the protection of sponsors.

    • We have no right to control what anyone does outside our event. We do have the right to decide who gets to speak and who gets to attend our event. We do have the right to determine who is working with us and who is working against us and take any legal and ethical action possible to protect our brand and our business.

      A blogger ticket costs $150 full price at TBEX (as low as $75 if you sign up early). That includes free meals, free drinks, amazing parties and experiences that cost thousands of dollars per person to provide. The only way any blogger gets to have the experience is because of sponsor support. If we don’t protect our sponsors there will be no TBEX. So when we protect our sponsors we are protecting the bloggers.

      The Outboarders and the Suitcasers are the ones harming the bloggers.

  19. Sorry but I don’t feel that this post was appropriate to publish at all. Such travel blogging drama is best kept offline. There was absolutely no need to go into this painful level of detail or get that personal (we all know who you’re talking about) – move on, let it be and focus on having a great conference in Dublin instead.

  20. With all the noise about this incident and the mysteriously unnamed person, we are forgetting to talk about another incident of some serious suitcasing that went on at TBEX 2013. Suitcasing of such a magnitude that the luggage was too large to check on a plane. I won’t name names, but to the travel blogger who hired the blimp with the open bar that took fifty bloggers chosen at random on a sky tour of Toronto, I just want you to know that no amount of your Krug Brut Vintage 1988 champagne could convince me that I should monetize my blog by selling endangers species smuggled during my travels.

    You gave all the bloggers on the blimp an iPod, sure, but that doesn’t excuse what you did with those water balloons. Had you told me that the deviled eggs were made from sea turtle eggs at the time, I would not have had so many. You sir, are a suitcaser of the highest degree, and I hope you are searched by customs. This did not belong at TBEX and I am only accepting your sponsored trip to the Greek Isles because I promised my little brother I’d bring him some sea shells from there.

    Good day,

  21. Excellent post. I don’t know about all the travel blogging politics, but this is a useful resource for event industry practitioners. Three points:

    EDUCATION AND EGO
    I’ll bet most Suitcasing happens because inexperienced marketing hotshots don’t know any better. They see an opportunity and they take it, without really understanding the broader business and ethical issues. The hardcore goniffs, though, deserve to be thrown out on their ears. Outboarding seems more an ego problem: “Our brand is so powerful, our message so compelling, that we don’t need your stinkin’ badges.” (Only rarely does an Outboarder provide an anchor for a new competitive show.)

    ACCESS AND EQUITY
    The more important a show becomes, the more people truly need to be there. The biggest Platinum Sponsors deserve everything they pay for, but there’s got to be a way for smaller, younger, niche-ier firms to do business. That’s the price of industry leadership. Maybe it’s a second floor pipe-and-drape showcase, or a poster section, or a pre-conference Start-Ups Forum — show-branded, segregated, clearly not part of the Platinum/Gold/Silver show floor experience. Also, profitable, sexy and an incubator for future show launches.

    NEVER SAY NEVER
    Your discretion in not naming names is smart. Unless the offender is an Owner or Principal, he or she will move on soon enough. The replacements will appreciate a show that keeps its cool and helps them re-establish an important marketing channel.

  22. Bob Kelley says:

    Suitcasing and Outboarding are significant problems. One way to reduce the problem is to control the meeting rooms in the hotels where you have room blocks. This allows you to work with hotel mgmt to prevent outboarders from hosting unwanted events in properties especially close to the convention center and at conflicting times with your event. The hotels are much more interested in your business than a small 2 hour event. As requests come in, you would be asked to sign off on the requests, sponsor events and unofficial events that don’t conflict with your events after show hours would be approved very quickly, others may take some background review. You have to be willing to spend the time and commit to a quick turnaround to the hotel requests, they want the revenue and they are your partner.

  23. Chris Jones says:

    Age old problem. I like how it has been branded but the bottom line is they are thieves. Plain and simple. We have a category on our registration for “supplier to the industry”, this is our exhibitor prospect base. All pre-registrants who select this are called and offered exhibit space prior to the event and made aware the soliciting outside of an exhibit space is prohibited. Anyone who ticks off supplier to the industry AND pays by credit card must sign the credit card slip with terms and conditions “call it a contract” that if deemed they are soliciting will be charged the minimum of 100 sq. ft. Over the past 7 years we have collected over $50,000 in revenue, and have only lost one challenge when it was disputed through the credit card company (which prompted the change in the terms).

  24. Interesting back and forth on this topic. I wasn’t in Toronto, but as someone who has been involved in producing a number of conferences (with much higher ticket prices for attendees) – I get the concerns Rick expresses. While of course a conference producer can’t control what happens off-site of the event, they do have the right to set some rules for attendees to protect their business interests. If XXXX people are in a city specifically to attend a conference, that conference organizer has brought those people together and should get credit/$$ from companies who want to reach that audience. I do believe most/all professional conference organizers agree on that.

    Here’s a third phrase that needs to be added to the discussion – a “lobby rat” – this is a person who doesn’t pay for the conference (and I’m not talking about $150 blogger passes here), but they sit in the hotel lobby where the event is hosted and network and schedule meetings with event attendees. That one really gets me…

  25. Vince Yu says:

    Hold on about travelmassive. Go back to https://www.facebook.com/TorontoTravelMassive and check out (scroll down) they support and promote the outboarding event. Find the pics from the event you will find the the organizer from Toronto travel massive who was present at the outboarding event and promoting it on twitter. To think about it there was another event before the island party at the host hotel. Again a perfect example of potential sponsor(T + E) not sponsoring.

    What does it say about a DMO and PR who support unethical events?
    What about one of tbex(g adventures) sponsoring unethical event?

    Suitcasers and outboarders are the #1 hashtag (#tbex) spamers and vomiters before and during the convention. What you can do is at least instruct everyone to hit report as spam function on twitter.

    Do make it clear what events are official. List it on the drop down menu. List it on blog.

    • We can’t blame any attendee or sponsor for lending support to an outboarding event when in most cases they have no idea there is a conflict.

      G Adventures is a long time sponsor of TBEX and supports our official events. Travel Massive is a long time supporter and media partner for TBEX.

  26. If only there was a different name than “suitcaser!”

  27. Good post, Rick. Thanks for sharing.

    One of the problems I have as an attendee is knowing what is considered suitcasing and what is not…

    For example, one well known blogger hands out stickers instead of business cards – and he hands them out fairly freely, but only to people he has actually had a conversation with. I have no problem with that, I think it’s creative, but the question I have is where is the line drawn between networking and suitcasing?

    Giving my business card to someone I chat with is OK (right?)…. so i assume giving them a novel business card like a sticker would be OK… but what if I use an oversized business card which was more postcard sized? or I printed a small 1-page flyer to use as a ‘business card’

    What about if I wear a t-shirt advertising my brand, which then causes someone to stop me and ask me about whatever my shirt says…. is that like pinning up a poster on a wall somewhere?

    I genuinely worry that I’m going to overstep the mark without knowing it!

  28. Great post Rick.Thanks for sharing ur experience.

  29. Non-profit Show Organizer says:

    Loved this post Rick. Outboarding and Suitcasing happen at all types of shows. I’ve been doing this for years and have found that you are absolutely correct, there are always approved but “unofficial” events with partner organizations and the like as well companies outboarding and suitcasing at a show. Most of the time I’ve found outboarders/suitcasers are overeager, new marketing and/or event planners that don’t realize what they are doing is unethical business conduct. We’ve found that working with our host hotels and having any outside requests for event or meeting space during our event be directed to complete our own ICW (in conjuntion with) event application really helps with this issue. Using ICWs applications we can keep track of all the affiliated events and they also assist the hotels with their event planning because all the right questions are asked, up-front, on the ICW form (date, time, attendance, meeting type, room set-up, audience, AV needs, etc). Once the ICW application is approved, the event planner can work directly with the hotel. We also use these ICWs to show ancillary meeting revenue when negotiating future meeting contracts for our show.

  30. This post is every bit as necessary today as it was when you wrote it. Thank you for explaining this so well.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Recently, Rick Calvert, CEO & Co-Founder of Blogworld & New Media Expo, wrote How Suitcasing and Outboarding Harm Events. […]

  2. […] conversation by Rick Calvert, the founder of BlogWorld and the New Media Expo. In 2013, his scathing condemnation of these carpetbagging fraudsters exposed many in the conference and convention industry to these […]

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