Yes, even though conferences, expos, annual meetings, and tradeshows are business events, they still come with enticements that attract unwelcome guests. You know what I’m talking about – the free buffet, receptions with complimentary cocktails, fun entertainers, and even nights out on the town.
What’s an event planner to do?
The first step toward warding off these Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson wannabes is to know how to identify the culprits. Since this is Cvent’s second year holding a large-scale conference in Las Vegas – and Vegas is packed with vacationers looking for a good time – we’re well versed in spotting and tactfully redirecting crashers. Here are a few tips for recognizing the seven types you will meet at conferences:
- Freeloaders – Freeloading crashers have let the basest human desire for free things, no matter how unnecessary, overtake their better judgment. They snuck into your event to take things intended for attendees, because these things appear to be “free.”
The Tell – You can spot freeloaders by looking for people, with no official credentials, helping themselves to platefuls of buffet food while trying to look inconspicuous. If you have an expo, they’ll be the ones at booths grabbing fistfuls of custom-branded keychain flashlights and chip clips.
- Unsanctioned Salespeople – Enterprising, yes. Unwanted by your attendees, probably. They’re here to crash your show because they see a potential sales opportunity.
The Tell – Unsanctioned sales folks are probably somewhere on the perimeter of your event. They’re using a table that doesn’t look like it belongs at your expo, and they’re peddling products that don’t quite fit in with the event or audience.
- Party Animals – These guys and gals noticed the open bar cordoned off exclusively for attendees. Before you know it, they are saddling up to it with two words in mind: free booze.
The Tell – Party animals don’t waste any time because they don’t know when the free tab will end – and they probably have somewhere else to be anyway. Look for people slinging shots or double-fisting drinks. Hint: Party animals don’t typically wear business-professional attire.
- Other-Session Interlopers – Members of this group aren’t crashers in the literal sense. They registered and paid to attend at least a portion of your event, but for whatever reason, be it confusion or a desire to switch tracks or hear a specific speaker, they aren’t where they are supposed to be.
The Tell – Other-session interlopers look lost or like they are trying to hide. If it’s a mistake, they’ll ask for help. If they’re attempting a last-minute switch-up, they’ll avoid eye contact and duck out of the check-in line.
- Confused Hungry People – This is bound to happen, especially if your event has a networking component in a semi-public space, like a hotel restaurant. You have arranged for a nice spread of drinks and hors d'oeuvres for attendees, but other hotel guests begin digging in.
The Tell – The dead giveaway here is their look of apprehensive joy. While they are taking food, they’re probably also looking around for confirmation that it’s OK. Sometimes signage doesn’t even stop these starving souls.
- Naturally Curious People Watchers – Overcome by their inquisitive instincts, these crashers aren’t here to stay. They’re usually hotel guests who just pop in, nod approvingly, and ask a few questions.
The Tell – You can spot naturally curious people watchers easily. They make no attempt to stay incognito. They aren’t wearing conference clothes, and they’ll most likely come directly up to you to ask what the event is and who it’s for.
- Mild Thrill Seekers – Mild thrill seekers are in it for a fleeting adrenaline rush. They aren’t there to cause trouble – they just want to high five and eventually recount the story of when they slipped into a conference on vacation unnoticed. Stealth mode!
The Tell – They are taking selfies in front of your signage and quoting Wedding Crashers. You know what you have to do, “Lock it up!”
Now that you know what you’re looking for, here are some simple ways to stop crashers in their tracks:
- Do a pre-event site inspection and staff all possible entrances
- Hire extra security if you need it
- Prepare hotel staff to be on the lookout
- Use mobile check-in technology for registrations and sessions
- Have self-serve kiosks for on-demand badge printing
- Stay vigilant
If you do end up dealing with an event crasher situation, don’t worry, there is a silver lining. Your event must be fun, interesting, and engaging enough to grab the attention of outsiders. Congrats! At Cvent CONNECT, we plan on being all those things. In addition to having top-notch learning opportunities and important industry content, we’re going to have fun nights out, enjoyable entertainment, and unique experiences (for attendees only).
Written by Rachel Andrews.