This week at the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago, a handful of protesters were able to use fake badges to enter McCormick Place. Their goal was to speak to the NRA president regarding minimum wages in the restaurant industry, but they were turned away.
While this potential conflict ended peacefully and most attendees never even knew it happened, it’s not the first time protesters have descended on a trade show. For shows that are prone to having very vocal opponents, this is likely something that’s covered in pre-show meetings and a crisis plan is in place. But for shows like NRA (restaurants, not that other NRA), it’s not so common. So how can any show be prepared for a mob of angry people?
Start by being more cautious about who gets badges in the first place. What credentials, if any, are required? Are suspicious attendees flagged in any way at registration?
And perhaps some social media monitoring could be helpful in a case like this one. Was there chatter ahead of time when the group was planning their protest? Could this have been discovered by using some basic Google alerts for the name of the show?
While this isn’t a daily issue most shows face (thankfully), it still deserves discussion. Like any other disaster planning (weather-related, terrorism, etc.), it should be a part of the pre-show planning conversation.
So have you been part of a show that drew protesters? If so, how was that situation handled? Please share in the comments below.