You mad bro? IHA Rant

So, I had an interesting experience today @ the IHA show. As I was wandering the aisles looking at the wares, I came across some glassware that I thought was interesting and may have some merit for future follow up with the company. I talked to one of the individuals there and he was reasonably ok to converse with and everything seemed fine. While I was looking for some additional information (which I didn’t find) I decided to take a photo of one of the glasses for a reminder to look up at a later date.

At that time the designer of the product came over to angrily inform me that I wasn’t allowed to take photos. Two women nearby took note and asked if they really weren’t allowed to take photos. So he had to tell them they were ok cause they were “press” and I wasn’t (my badge was the less “prestigious” show guest). Mind you, I’ve been at IHA for two days now and not a single person has had issue with photos. I’ve seen many “non-press” folks taking photos too. As a matter of fact, I don’t recall ever having a problem taking photos at any shows that I’ve attended where the product is already readily available in market (I believe it was even featured on here at some point) and doesn’t contain any proprietary technology.

What’s with the attitude? Are other designers really that defensive @ shows where they’re supposed to be getting the word out about their product? Did I truly violate a cardinal rule?

I’ve had very negative experiences at some trade shows, especially if the company is a competitor they’ll flat out chase me out of booths. I usually have to have my badge flipped, or rely on a nice long lens to take shots from a distance.

This happened to me at the Toy Show in NYC. I just said thanks, and walked away. I don’t go to many trade shows anymore. Too much attitude and not enough value.


I went to Magic in Las Vegas this year and was shocked to see how rude people in the booths were. As soon as they found out that I was a student and not a buyer all conversations were dropped and I was treated like an outsider. No one told me to leave, but it was a very uninviting environment.

Some people are way too uptight. I spent more time talking to competitors and students at ICFF than buyers. If you think stopping someone from taking a picture of your stuff will prevent knockoffs, you should just stay home and keep it hidden in a safe.

Are you sure it was the designer? Perhaps it’s different in the US, but my experience at various trade shows around EU is that it’s only sales people in booth. They don’t know anything about the product that you can’t learn in the brochure or website, and they want to focus their time on the right person (the one who will buy 10000pcs/month). Somehow they don’t realize that having an empty booth where they are drinking coffee will not lure Walmart buyers inside.

I’ve too been told not to take pictures, which is ridiculous. If you truly don’t want people to see your product why exhibit it? Self important pricks.

Ive had that experience at IHA as well. A couple years ago I went as a ‘guest’ and got some uneasy looks every time I slowed to take a picture of an object I found would merit passing on to the buying team. If you go with the “buyer” badge, consider it a ticket to do whatever you want. Unfortunately, that also comes with being hounded by certain vendors popping out of their booth and cutting off your path to push their product on you…

They should know that it’s the buyers that are going to send the photos of their product to every supplier they know asking for a quote!

Okay, if you read the rules and reg. of the show it forbids you from taking pictures on the show room floor, to the point where they can ban the individual and or the company the work for from ever attending or show there again. Now reality is most of the “good” stuff is shown behind closed doors away from prying eyes as it is too soon to show due to pending release date.

I always make sure to see the rules before attending the trade show to ensure that i am allowed or NOT allowed to capture images. In my younger days i would walk the show and then when seeing something notable i would crank out a sketch, but not in front of the item…

OP: your case is a little diff. the person at the booth obviously didnt assess the situation, as you are a potential buy not another vendor and could have handled the situation with more decorum and tack, while potentially landing a sale.

It seems the OP tried to ask for forgiveness instead of permission. And it didn’t work.

As a competitor, I have been sized up and asked to leave a booth many, many times. As I have asked our competitors to leave. Sure, they can find most of the information in other sources, but that does not mean I am under any obligation to help them.

So if the show rule is no photography, then no photography. ts. But if you started a conversation with a sales rep and begin the relationship, ask permission to take a photo. Obviously the relationship in the OP is ruined. Too bad for both sides.

Hm yeah it goes a bit far, as I see it a show is meant for showing things, whatever you put out there is just out in public for anyone to see, and take pictures of. If you put it out in public it’s also in principle open to competitors to research as I see it. And if people start carrying technology like Google Glass, how could you possibly prevent picture taking? For me the line is when people start touching things without permission - it’s a show, not a shop. I had to attend a booth once and it being the first time, had no idea that people would start moving things around and take pictures of every little detail, even large items like a truck bumper, like a pack of rats. And some guys tried to take home everything they could, even scale models not displayed behind glass.

Yes, it was the designer. His face was on the flyer I picked up of the glassware he was exhibiting.

Yes, so I often talk to someone in the booth so they’re aware of what the situation is. While I don’t have a buyer badge, I have the ability to purchase large quantities and develop a relationship with them that’s equitable for both sides. Most of the times, the opportunities I have to offer would be longer term development or promotional/activations opportunities. Eitherway, it’s not a wasted conversation and definately not intended to waste anyone’s time.

After this posting, there was one other vendor that declined a photo but it was much more polite than this guy. I think it tweaked me out more because I knew he was in my industry of design and I knew that there was nothing proprietary about the item. In addition, I posed no threat as a competitor to rip him off. All I can attribute his attitude to was his inexperience as a professional and ego because he brought his concept to commericalization and was clearly proud of it. Maybe he’ll learn that his behavior can prove to be costly and he’ll get a little more tact in the future.

Another booth operator told me many folks are on edge because many Asian companies were sending their sales reps/American partners into the booths to capture photos and rip off the product. These copycats made it difficult to figure out who the OEM was to talk to them about R&D opportunities. I saw this first hand with the president of Vinturi, he found a copycat of his product yesterday at a different booth. He had some words with the sale rep and took all the samples they had out on display.

Protip : Just get a buyer’s badge. It’s really easy, just register one online with your name and a fake company of your choice (Boostedware?). I even make fake business cards this way I’m able to check all the products I want without having to deal with these kind of issues. Only downside is that you’ll have to invent some bullshit about your company when you really want to check out an interesting product.

At face value this advice may seem clever, but honestly it’s stupid and contributes to some of the problems, not least of which is that you can be prosecuted by show providers for doing it. Posing as a buyer when you aren’t one makes you douche, not clever, and so here’s why. Companies who exhibit are there to build relationships and gather real leads, and they expect a return on what is in some cases a significant investment in their tradeshow program. When you do things like this, and you have no purchasing intentions you waste their time and put actual buyers in a situation where they have to compete with your nonsense to conduct actual business. Show providers don’t like this because you’re diluting qualified leads, which hurts the marketability of their shows.

Shows have different tagging methods like different colored badges so that exhibit staffers can qualify attendees at a glance for a reason, and yes, badge discrimination is a reality, but I chalk that up to poor booth staff training, or stacking the deck with just sales guys. A good staff program includes professionals from several different disciplines that can qualify attendees on the fly and make appropriate “hand-offs”.

Here’s some actual attendee “Protips” from an actual pro:

Don’t take the “customer is always right” approach, exhibits aren’t stores, and staffers have to qualify every opportunity, if you don’t present a real opportunity, don’t lie about it, and don’t act so entitled if you have nothing to offer.

Introduce yourself and share your intentions. If you get the cold shoulder, that’s just poor booth staffing and/or greedy sales dudes blowing you off. In my experience, if they aren’t busy they’ll gladly spend more time talking to you.

If you are in an exhibit always ask if you can take a photo. Photos from the aisle is somewhat a grey area, but be prepared to get the occasional stink eye for doing it. No photography means no photography, but, yes some exhibitors will allow it if it’s relevant to your conversation and you ask nicely.

For students:
Introduce yourself and share your intentions.
If you want to speak with a staffer, the best time to do this is when the exhibit isn’t busy.
If you’re job seeking, research the show website beforehand and identify which companies you want to visit and contact prior to the show to see if they have anyone available to meet with you.

FWIW, copycat concerns are legit, and that stuff does go on.

A conversation on ethics is in order, any company that would support this methodology is not one i would want to work for. Nor the person suggesting it, If you see lying as an acceptable business practice then i would wonder what other unethical things have you done.

You may want to take a hard long look at this post and try and figure out why this approach is just wrong on so many levels.

I think I need to explain myself better before everybody shoots me about what I wrote earlier.

Regarding ethics, I completely agree with all what both Greenman and Chevisw wrote. If you are going to go around in a buyer’s badge taking photos, engaging conversations with every salesman, stealing information about sensitive products and handing out fake business cards creating fake leads then your are an asshole and the advice I wrote sounds retarded. Please note that I do none of what is stated above, I completely understand what was mentioned regarding ethics and I make sure I loose nobody’s time at any trade show I attend.

Like Boosted561 and others mentioned, I had many bad experiences at that particular show and just grew tired of it and this is not even for taking photos or looking up close at products. Having this badge this year just allowed me to walk the show without being instantly yelled at or have aggressive reaction just because I dared looking at your products, which are on public display by the way. All of this attitude prevents me from doing my job which is taking in the trends of the industry.

Regarding the business card thing, it’s a running gag between me and my coworkers , people who know me would tell you I make these kind of jokes all the time. I mentioned it because I thought it thought it sounded funny because it was part of the whole “plan”.

Anyway, I realize that what I said was a terrible advice and lacked tons of context., sorry about that.

Ok come on, these accusations are absolutely ridiculous. I have a lot more good judgement and common sense than people pretend I have in this thread.

While I don’t condone it, it is a reality of the trade show business. As a consultant, every, and I mean every, fortune 500 company that was ever a client either did one of two things. They hired a consultant to obtain information at a trade show or they setup a dummy company and had their employees obtain information at a trade show.

Obviously I can’t speak for all companies, but 100% of our large (they had enough money to do so) clients had no ethical problem with this. I won’t mention names, but I will guarantee you are aware of these companies. I think the reasoning behind why it is “OK” is they are just getting information that is in the public domain, they are not trying to steal any secrets.

At the end of one show, I watched one of our clients go into a competitor’s booth and literally steal a product, it was only on display, no give-aways. All I could do was inform my manager of his actions and I requested not to work with him moving forward (I was only a junior and it wasn’t my decision to dump them as a client). I do know the thief shortly thereafter changed companies but I don’t know if it was due to the theft.

I can appreciate you putting it in context for us. Working in this industry I’m well aware of this tactic to game the system and that it’s unfortunately too common, and I don’t advise it. Is it effective, certainly, but it hurts my industry so I didn’t mention it. Personally, I think wearing a buyer badge would be really annoying…The advice I posted up are ways to get around the issues without having to resort to subterfuge.

Not all shows are “public” and if you don’t have legitimate industry reasons for being there they have a tighter vetting process.

There are many companies who don’t get it when it comes to exhibiting, it’s part of their marketing plan, but they fall short with staffing, pre-show promo, measurement tools, etc. Companies who do get know how to provide an appropriate experience for all badge colors…

When it comes to visiting a competitor’s exhibits you’ll get a much warmer reception if you enter to pay them a genuine compliment. If you’re snooping or acting shady you should expect to be bounced.

That said, if you are having bad experiences at a particular show, let the event organizer or individual companies know with a follow up to their leadership. Lots of companies are granted show sponsorships that can be taken away for bad behavior.

The thing is everything on the trade show floor is public. If you are trying to sneak into private rooms, shame on you. We have caught people trying to do that, not cool. Anything that is public is probably online, and the photo online is probably better than the one you are snapping in the booth. Just carry a note pad, write it down, and google it later no?