Wednesday, December 18, 2013

What is Event Outboarding and Suitcasing?

We’ve seen this term pop up quite often recently, and several people ask us through social media - What is event outboarding or suitcasing? Rather than try answering in a tweet or post, we decided we’d just write about it!

What is Event Outboarding?


Event Suitcasing image
Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.com

Event outboarding is when a company that could be a sponsor of an event tries instead to leach off of, or piggyback on, the event and its promotion without supporting the event through sponsorship dollars without the OK from the event organizer.

It may seem innocent, and even look like great, opportunistic marketing, but if you’re building a long-term business strategy, you’re going to hurt your relationships. Outboarding essentially steals from the work of others. An event organizer must go to great lengths and take on big risks to build a successful event - renting a venue, securing sponsors, building a website and social channels, advertising, getting speakers, and much MUCH more. 

The person doing event outboarding sees all of this and says, “oh, rather than sponsor the event, I’ll host my own event nearby on that same day or night.” The worst offenders will even steal the brand of the original event, as described in this blog from the Xcon conference

This spreads attendees, media attention, and hurts the prospects of the original event for the future. 
Event suitcasing is even more disingenuous. In these cases, a company or individual who is targeting the attendees of the conference refuses to sponsor or attend the conference, but instead hounds the paid attendees. They stalk the lobbies, the sidewalks, or the post-event gatherings at bars and restaurants handing out flyers or swag of their own. 

Again, outboarding or suitcasing an event often seems innocent to the people doing it, but these practices make it harder for the heavy lifters of the conference and trade show industry to continue to stage events. Without them, there’s not even anything to outboard!

The practice is becoming even more difficult in the age of social media, as outboarding and suitcasing has spread to the digital realm. How?

Outboarding Events Through Twitter


There are several ways to outboard an event through social media, but one that has become tremendously prevalent in 2013 is hijacking hashtags on Twitter. 

By now you probably know that most events create a hashtag to focus Twitter conversation. It’s great - it allows you to connect with other conference goers before you get there, and once you’re at the event, it can facilitate meet-ups or point you to the best booths and events. 

But event outboarders can also use it to target customers without attending or sponsoring the event. They can dominate Twitter chats, target ads to hashtag users, or sometimes create their own chats hijacking the event topics or hashtags. 

These aren’t always bad. Creating a FOMO effect (Fear Of Missing Out) is good for the event, and adding off-site voices to online debates among attendees can further discussions and connections. But ethical practitioners will at least create their owner version of the event hashtag and schedule at times that don’t compete with the organizers. 


For a great rundown of event outboarding and suitcasing, and why it’s harmful to events, we highly encourage you to check out this great rundown from the Tbex blog.

John Dubielak is the Vice President of Operations for Rentfusion, which offers AV rentals, computer rentals, and all manner of equipment for meeting planners, tradeshows, convention hosts, exhibitors and event planners nationwide. Follow Rentfusion on Twitter at @rentfusion and on Linkedin.