by Jim Curry

I am a troll.

I troll loads of different people and companies about a whole load of different things.

In the past few months, I have trolled a cyclist and a cycling coach. I have also trolled a sports promoter, asking why he promotes boxers with doping convictions.

But it’s not always about sports and doping.

I have also trolled retailers, airlines, government agencies, and delivery services (one gave me a £30 gift card, as a result).

My trolling is selective… to a degree. I only go after profiles or companies and I don’t get personal.

A quick look at psychological studies on trolls–there have been a few–would suggest that I have deep-rooted narcissistic, sadistic and/or psychopathic personality faults.

Damn–and I thought I was one of the good guys.

However, my defense is a new study by some clever people at Stanford and Cornell Universities. Turns out that there is a troll in everyone and even the nicest of people, like my good self, can become trolls. It just comes down to the circumstances.

For the study, the researchers analyzed 16 million comments on the CNN website and found a quarter of those were flagged as trolling (i.e., abusive). A quick trend analysis showed that websites around the world have reported monthly increases in trolling.

Trolling is grabbing the headlines and is on the rise among everyday people.

The study also found trolling has two primary triggers; an individual’s mood and their exposure to prior trolling behavior in that environment.

Let’s get it right, trolls and trolling are dangerous for any business and the study showed that if it goes unchecked it can spiral into a toxic environment for the website and the community.

So if the trolling starts… expect other people to stick the boot in.

Luckily for digital communities there are some counter measures which can be implemented to limited the degree of trolling whether that’s moderating posts, capping post rate limits, ranking users comments, improving interface design, increasing loading times and prioritizing positive sentiment comments.

Last year I saw quite a few exhibitions come under attack and the response strategy was mixed. Some engaged the trolls, some gifted the trolls, and some blanked them. An online strategy for organizers to deal with trolls is clearly something that needs to be developed if it hasn’t already been drafted up already.

But what about the offline trolling? That’s a way bigger issue and has been around for many years before the internet was a thing.

Unlike online discussion forums or websites, offline trolling goes on behind closed doors, in the aisles, on the stands, on telephone calls or in emails. It goes unchecked and that should be a worry for everyone in the chain.

The only trolling that many organizers see is on the post-show feedback surveys. A one-off document that gets edited by the team to highlight the uptick stats before getting squirrelled away in a hidden folder on the system.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The trolling of an exhibition goes on 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

In the next month I am visiting two exhibitions where the trolling by exhibitors, partners and visitors is voracious and I am pretty confident that the organizers haven’t got a clue.

How do I know about this troll feasting? I have phoned exhibitors up to ask them their views. I have emailed the visitors and I have had pretty frank conversations with their sponsors.

This hidden trolling can be a very powerful movement and massively detrimental to the exhibition which could easily slide into a spiral of negativity.

We all have our key markers for success in exhibitions whether that’s revenues, net square meter ratings, satisfaction levels, trades, net promoter scores, rebooks, retention rates but maybe a trolling index is something that all organizers should be looking at….across the year and on every channel.

Maybe worth a thought.

By the way, the trolling index could also be applied to suppliers who quite frankly aren’t even at the races when it comes to exhibitor service

Yes, yes, I am trolling them.

Jim Curry is Owner of Exhibitor Smarts. Opinions are his own. He can be reached through his website at

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