Conference and trade show intelligence is hot. Awareness of the opportunities for focused intelligence gathering at industry meetings, conferences, and exhibitions has perhaps never been higher. And rightfully so. Conferences bring together many people with valuable knowledge in one place to network and talk. With proper organization and advanced planning, companies can collect substantial amounts of competitive intelligence at such events.
However, for the same reasons that conferences and exhibitions represent such valuable intelligence gathering opportunities, they also pose intelligence risks. Just like other attendees, your company's employees attend such shows to meet new people, network, and talk. Natural human tendencies make it more likely that participants at a trade show or conference are disclosing more than they should about their companies.
People usually underestimate the value of the information they disclose, and want to demonstrate their knowledge and expertise, especially when surrounded by industry peers. These tendencies often lead to the improper disclosure of sensitive information, whether or not the employee was the specific target of an intelligence gathering effort by a competitor.
What, then, are ways to avoid the improper disclosure of information at conferences and trade shows?
- First, know what not to say. Make sure that all conference attendees from your company know what questions not to answer, and what information your company considers confidential.
- If you find that your employees are being asked the same question several times over, instruct them to direct all questioners to a single point of contact. Doing so helps coordinate a consistent, safe response. Your company can then also spot trends in the questions and identify who they are coming from, providing valuable insights into what your competitors want to know about your company.
- Stifle your natural human tendencies. Watch out for attempts to use flattery, challenging statements, and misinformation as a means to prompt your employees to disclose proprietary information.