Whether you’re a software engineer or a wedding planner, trade shows are an important way to connect with potential customers and investors, as well as your industry peers. With the costs of travel, specialized marketing solutions for your booth, and time away from the office, trade shows can be expensive. Nonetheless, the time and money invested is worth the opportunities that they present.

That is, unless your time at a trade show leads to a costly lawsuit.

The last thing you imagine when planning to attend a trade show or expo is injuring someone or damaging their property. Yet just as in your day-to-day operations, something can always go wrong—and your existing general liability insurance and professional liability insurance may not cover the risks you take on at a trade show.

The solution? Trade show insurance.

What is trade show insurance?

Trade show insurance is a specific kind of special event insurance designed to protect businesses from the risks they face when attending trade shows, industry expos, and fairs. The following kinds of trade show participants can take out these kinds of policies:

  • Trade show exhibitors – If you’re attending a trade show to exhibit your goods or services, you expose yourself to different liability than you would at your regular place of business.
  • Trade show vendors – Trade show vendors are there to sell concessions or services that are unrelated to the main focus of the event. However, if you’re a food vendor selling at a trade show, you’re still exposed to different liability than you would be at your restaurant.
  • Trade show organizers – While organizers may require exhibitors and vendors to have their own insurance policies, they should also cover their own liability with a separate policy.

If a trade show organizer requires your small business to present proof of insurance before registering to attend, you’ll need to take out a policy and obtain a Certificate of Insurance (COI).

What does trade show insurance cover?

Over the course of your day at a trade show, you may interact with hundreds or even thousands of attendees. Trade show insurance is designed to protect you against potential liability in situations like the following:

Bodily injury

You’re a puppeteer working a booth at a toy fair. Should you accidentally injure someone while at the event, you could be held liable.

3rd-party property damage

You’re a food vendor providing snacks at a trade show. You set up your booth in close proximity to dozens of other vendors. Should you accidentally damage their property over the course of the day, you could be held liable.

Legal costs

In a situation like the above, the injured party could take you to court to collect damages. Without trade show insurance, you’d be responsible for your own legal fees, even if you’re eventually cleared of wrongdoing.

Medical costs

As an aesthetician, you attend beauty expos and provide free mini-facials to attendees. Should one of them have an allergic reaction to one of your products, you could be held responsible for the cost of their trip to urgent care.

As you can see, trade show insurance can help you in the event that your expo attendance results in a costly lawsuit or payout. Without trade show insurance, a promotional opportunity-gone-wrong could affect your bottom line. With it, you can return home to resume business as usual.

Doesn’t my insurance already cover that?

The short answer? It depends on the specifics of your policy. But let’s take a look at the long answer, too.

You may already have an insurance policy to protect your small business from liability:

  • General liability insurance can help protect your business against claims of personal injury, advertising injury, bodily injury, and property damage brought by clients and third parties.
  • Professional liability insurance, also called errors & omission insurance (E&O), can help protect you against claims of errors, mistakes, and negligence related to your work.

While you may think that your general liability policy covers claims resulting from a trade show, your insurance policy may contain an exclusion. An exclusion is a specific type of risk that is excluded from your insurance coverage.

Because trade shows may take place in ZIP codes far away from your usual place of business, and because you interact with dozens of individuals at these events, it’s sometimes necessary to take on additional insurance to cover yourself when you attend a trade show.

Does trade show insurance leave anything out?

Like other kinds of liability insurance, trade show insurance cannot cover injuries to your crew, since they aren’t clients or third parties. For that, you need workers’ compensation insurance.

In addition, trade show insurance cannot cover damage to your property—only to client and third-party property.

How can I get covered?

Many trade shows will require exhibitors and vendors to show a COI when they submit the application to display or sell. And even if a particular event doesn’t require insurance, it’s important to make sure you’re covered to protect yourself from risk.

Consider the following options for trade show insurance:

  • If you go to several trade shows annually, seek out a general liability insurance policy that includes trade show insurance.
  • Alternately, take out special event insurance to cover a single day or week at a trade show.
  • If you’re transporting valuable property and merchandise for a trade show, also consider inland marine insurance to protect it while it’s in transit.

Once you’ve purchased a policy that covers trade shows, you should receive a COI that you can show to the event coordinator. Be sure you understand any exclusions in your new trade show insurance before the event takes place.

Small business insurance that goes where you go

As a small business owner, you attend trade shows with one objective—growing your business. However, many insurance companies make it difficult to understand when and how your policy applies.

At Thimble, our goal is to demystify insurance so that small businesses like yours can make sure they’re covered when and where they need to be.

Our fast, flexible general liability and professional liability insurance policies are offered on-demand. What is on-demand insurance?

It’s insurance that works when you do—choose from hourly, daily, or monthly policies. You can get insurance in under 60 seconds. Just enter a few details, review your quote, and click to purchase.

Voila: you have insurance.

Likewise, if you’re a monthly policyholder who needs extra coverage for a trade show in another state, get covered for those specific dates with our special event insurance. That way, you can show off your products and services with the extra confidence that comes when you know you’re protected from risk.

Written on May 8, 2020 | Modified on: August 23, 2021

Our editorial content is intended for informational purposes only and is not written by a licensed insurance agent. Terms and conditions for rate and coverage may vary by class of business and state.