The She Podcasts LIVE event is an “The largest in-person gathering of women podcasters, audio content creators, story tellers, and more.” We intend for all parties in that equation to meet on a level playing field to discuss industry best practices and to build community as well as lasting friendships and relationships. That conversation, and the quality of the She Podcasts LIVE experience is made possible by our generous sponsors.
At industry conferences, Suitcasing and Outboarding are parasitic business practices in which non-sponsoring businesses use various tactics to reach conference attendees and/or exhibitors without securing the organizers’ permission, and without supporting the event from which they are benefiting. They are effectively stealing a sponsorship they aren’t willing to buy.
Suitcasing specifically refers to those non-sponsoring companies or persons who attend a conference (at an affordable ticket price that is subsidized by paying sponsors) and then aggressively “work the aisles” and hand out promotional materials and/or products.
Outboarding refers to non-sponsoring companies who set up events in hotel suites, area restaurants, or other nearby venues and draw conference attendees away from the regular programming and paying sponsor engagements. These events are often exclusive and geared only toward select groups of bloggers, which can enhance their cachet but contravenes the She Podcasts policy of inclusiveness and creating 100% open events. Attendees can be easily confused regarding which organizations and businesses are officially affiliated with a conference, assuming these events are a part of She Podcasts when they are not. Outboarders rely on this confusion to press their advantage and circumvent the sponsorship process.
Partial Outboarding is a more recent phenomenon that refers to sponsoring companies who pay for a minimum level of sponsorship, then hold unofficial, unsanctioned functions for attendees outside of the normal planned calendar of events. Like regular outboarding, these unsanctioned events can conflict with existing events or otherwise draw conference attendees away from the regular programming and official sponsor engagements. Doing this is akin to someone paying for one product at a store while shoplifting another item. Paying for one item doesn’t excuse the theft of another. And this activity creates even more confusion for well-meaning attendees since the outboarders are already sponsoring some other aspect of the event and don’t stand out as full outboarders.
This is a very serious industry problem. The International Association for Exhibition Management (IAEM), in its Official Policy, states:
“IAEM considers Outboarding to be unethical business conduct and should not be condoned nor tolerated.
Exhibition and event sponsors invest significant financial and other precious resources in the planning and execution of their events. Their financial resources are at risk, as are the business reputation and good will that are vital elements of a sponsor’s business success.
IAEM further believes that abundant opportunities exist through sanctioned means for those who wish to conduct their own marketing and/or selling events to do so in cooperation and coordination with the sponsoring organizers of exhibitions and similar events.”
Meeting someone in the hallway and discussing your product, service, or business, and/or exchanging business cards is completely fine. That’s what a conference is about. But distributing products or propaganda is not allowable, nor is tweeting or posting about handouts or freebies that you’ll be giving away during the conference, with or without the conference hashtag. People who participate in these activities erode the quality of the event for paying sponsors and attendees, harm the community, and will not be tolerated.
If outboarding or suitcasing occurs, we have adopted specific policies and penalties for the She Podcasts LIVE event and beyond:
- On-site revocation of credentials and immediate removal from event;
- Prohibition of outboarders from speaking or sponsoring at future She Podcasts events;
- Enhanced vigilance by the She Podcasts social media team during the event;
- Community reporting tools and methods during the event; and,
- Reserving the option to seek legal remedies and damages as appropriate.
Finally, we urge attendees of ANY media conference: If you are invited to a party or offered a giveaway product during that conference, please check your conference app/schedule/program and review the list of sponsors and the schedule of events. If the brand or event isn’t listed, don’t attend the party or accept the giveaway. Plain and simple. People may think, “What’s the harm?” But these little actions add up to a clear negative effect on the events that support our community.
We appreciate your support for She Podcasts LIVE, and for the sponsors who show up to support podcasting-related content and who make this event possible.