Unfortunately, exhibitor scam tactics are quite common in the industry. What typically happens is that companies comb through event websites to find the exhibitor list and then use that list to track down the company contact information to make these sorts of calls.
With regards to your relationship with a2z, there are two things we can say with certainty:
- We apply top notch security protocols and practices to ensure that our clients’ data is kept secure.
- We do not, under any circumstances, sell or give away contact information for shows that use a2z.
If your event is dealing with this issue, one step you can take is to send a cease and desist to the email domain for the 3rd Party. A sample letter taken from http://www.iaee.com/resources/ is attached for reference purposes.
Second, we recommend making your preferred providers WELL KNOWN to your exhibitors. For example, if you use a particular hotel reservation, lead retrieval, or registration company, you may wish to make it known to your exhibitors that you prefer they purchase from these vendors. This sounds like a simple thing, and you probably do promote your preferred vendors, but if you make them even more prominent that could help.
Options to Consider When It Comes to Exhibitor Data Protection
The trade-off that event organizers need to make is between the promotional value of the exhibitor list on one hand vs. the hassle of dealing with potential poachers and scammers on the other. The pros and cons of 3 different options are presented below:
Option 1: Make the Exhibitor List Available Publicly on the Event Website
- The exhibitor list is being used to promote both your exhibitors and your event
- Data is at greater risk of being collected by a 3rd Party, either manually or through so-called “web scraping”
Option 2: Make Exhibitor List Available Only to Registered Attendees
- The exhibitor list is available to attendees so they can plan their time at your event
- The list is password protected, which makes it more difficult for 3rd parties to gain access to it
- Requires attendee registration integration into a2z or a frequent manual import of the attendee list
- Prospective attendees will not be able to view the exhibitor list before deciding whether to register for the event
Option 3: Post the Exhibitor List Only on the Event Live Date or Not at All
- Exhibitors are highly unlikely to receive unsolicited spamming prior to the event live date (assuming that the 3rd party is not working from a previous event’s exhibitor list)
- The exhibitor list is not being used to promote either the exhibitors or the event
Best Practices for Protecting Exhibitor Data
Under any circumstance, there are certain best practices that event organizers can undertake to limit the ability for poachers and scammers to hassle exhibitors:
- Disable the functionality that allows for attendees to email exhibitors through their online profile
- Make sure that exhibitor lists from past events are taken down and archived
- Limit the contact information that’s made accessible on the exhibitor profiles
- Be thoughtful in using the a2z’s Exhibitor List report – don’t email that report to anyone who cannot be trusted with the data
- As mentioned above, be intentional in communicating preferred vendors to your exhibitors and warn them about the potential for poaching and scamming