I was recently invited to sit on the panel at an Event Huddle breakfast about exhibiting at shows. It should have come as no surprise that the age-old problem of freeloaders, or clients without business, reared its ugly head. The general feeling was that whether they are lurking round an exhibition stand waiting to grab a free gift or hanging out at drinks receptions stuffing their faces with free food and drink, these people are a blight on our industry.
We are talking about a group of people who have no shame, and probably no fridge! Let’s face it they don’t need one as we provide all their meals for free! I have been told that the real professionals use more than one identity to get on to guest lists, and sometimes attend several events a day.
So, what are the tell-tale signs that you have attracted some members of this sub species to your event? Well here are a few tips:
• You may well recognise them, but not be sure why or where from?
• They are generally in small groups talking to themselves and rarely show any interest in engaging with hosts or exhibitors
• They tend not to be the youngest people in the room
• They will very often position themselves close to the door where the canapes are entering the room, and will swoop on poor unsuspecting waiting staff
• They may have non-business style email addresses and only mobile phone numbers as their contact details
• At exhibitions they will be carrying or wheeling a large bag or suitcase of some sort
So what can we do? Well to be honest it’s not going to get any easier to vet as GDPR will make it harder to create and share lists of undesirables. But on the other hand, it will give us the opportunity to clean our data. So be brave, ask the uncomfortable questions of those you suspect might not be genuine clients. Ask them where and what were the last three events they booked, ask them for references from those events, and even ask them for copies of the invoices. I have genuinely done this, and it works.
There is always one final option, just say no! Say no to the extra guests they want to bring, say no if they turn up uninvited, and say no when they phone up asking to be put on the list. These people are professional scroungers and they will try every trick in the book to get a freebie!!
And in closing I would just like to say that if anyone is offended by this blog, I suggest they take a long hard look in the mirror, because it may well be you I am talking about!
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