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Stephanie Selesnick's Articles

Are All of Your Expo Rules Necessary?


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I’m a rule breaker. A more accurate label would be rule questioner. I hate most rules, believing that, like many laws these days, they are unnecessary and just serve to piss people off and limit their creativity.

When was the last time you reviewed your long, complicated, obtuse and probably obsolete rules for your show with people outside of not only your industry, but the exhibition industry? Specifically, reading through each and everyone OUT LOUD?

Hint No. 1: If you have to explain what the rule actually is, then it is in serious need of a rewrite.

Hint No. 2: If you have to explain why the rule exists (and it’s not a matter of safety or local law), chances are quite good it should go away.

Those of you who attended my CEM classes (when I used to be on the faculty) know how I feel about the IAEE display “guidelines.” Note the word “guideline”— NOT “rules.” For those of you who don’t know, I hate them. Think they are awful.

One year, while teaching a CEM floor plan class in Canada, I divided everyone up into groups and asked them to explain the “guidelines” to each other and the rest of us. It wasn’t pretty (and I got in a lot of trouble for doing so!), but it was a teachable moment about how rules and regulations should be written for the end user—not the one making the rules (or the lawyers).

For the record, I have clients who follow those guidelines faithfully. I’m still convinced I’ll convert them one day and periodically, much to their dismay, bring up the subject—usually over adult beverages. To be fair, IAEE issued a white paper on cubic guidelines, but I haven’t seen them widely adopted.

The rest of the planet (except Canada, funny enough) uses shell schemes. Those panels go up 8 feet on the sides. If there are display guidelines, it’s pretty easy to decipher, as everyone uses cubic space.

Now try and explain the (lame) guideline about end-caps. Can you really see past one or two booths down any aisle? Really? What’s the difference if an exhibitor has a 20’ x 20’ peninsula and completely blocks the booths in the two aisles behind them—just because they have a bit more space? Can you imagine your exhibitors’ response if you made them stick with the same end-cap rules? I bet the answer wouldn’t be pretty. Neither would your bottom line.

I urge you to review your show rules and regulations with a fresh perspective and bet your organization will get rid of at least one third. What’s the dumbest rule you’ve encountered?

© 2013 by Stephanie Selesnick