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March 07, 2013

In Search of . . . the Elusive, Serious, Security Professional

CBOSS girls. I'm not usually the kind of a per...

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I read with a smile Winn Shwartau’s rant in SC Magazine about his disappointment at the RSA show floor. While much of what Winn said is true, instead of blaming the people exhibiting on the show floor, maybe Winn and the rest of the attendees should take a good look in the mirror.

Blaming the exhibitors to me is the same as blaming the spammers for spam. There really is a very easy solution here. The same way that spammers would not be in business if people would not click on spam, exhibitors at trade shows like RSA would adopt different methods if they were not getting the results they want using current methods. The facts are that most every exhibitor at RSA gets the leads they want. On top of this as you saw, RSA had to open another exhibit hall this year. I also hear that perhaps as many as 50 other vendors inquired but were shut out of exhibit space.

As my brother used to say when I gained weight on a diet and claimed I wasn’t getting any food in the house, “someone is sneaking it in”. Whatever they are doing it is working, so why change it? Here is a fact for Winn and those who consider themselves security pros, who are beneath what is dished out on the floor at RSA. You are in the minority and perhaps not even the target of the exhibitors.

On the other hand the attendees at RSA Conference exhibits are quite a bunch. I can’t tell you how many people I see walking around with multiple bags full of chotchkes and swag. I call them adult trick or treaters. Then there are the guys who take pictures with the booth babes to show their friends. There are the lottery players who get their badge scanned at every booth in the hopes of getting that free iPad. What about the people drawn to the motorcycles and the cars? What does that have to do with security? For far too many of the people walking that show floor, a sales guy collecting their lead info is all that is required. They don’t want to speak to an engineer.

On top of this do you know how much arm twisting you would have to do to get a sales engineer or similar talent to spend the week on the show floor? There is a reason that the people at these booths are the people they are. They are good enough to do the job. As a security company executive how many engineers should I tie up for the week for the 3 or 4 “real security pros” who might walk by? 

Here is the bottom line, RSA is a good place to find out about new companies and technologies. But if you want a deeper dive, you should set up a time after the craziness of the show to do so. 

Now don’t get me wrong. I have written for years about the fact that we don’t need booth babes. On top of that I understand that most of the booths are manned by marketing and junior sales people who don’t know enough about the technology. Too many of the marketing people try to cover up not having a good message about what they do and why we must have their product with fancy, glitzy marketing.

The fact is that the exhibits at RSA are not any different than the exhibits at Black Hat, Infosec or any number of large security conferences. The tracks at RSA are in my opinion superior, but that is neither here nor there. As an exhibit floor, RSA represents the industry only maybe bigger. Just because it is larger, why should we expect a higher level of technical prowess at the booth?

Speaking as an executive of a firm who exhibited at RSA for more than a few years, I can tell you that getting real live “security pros” like Winn to the booth is a pretty rare occurrence. The best we could hope for was collect names and sift through them separating the real leads from the fluff. We would take one sales engineer (usually the west coast guy) in case someone had a real question. Other than that we made sure everyone could demo the product and knew the high points.

I am not sure what Winn wants, but I know that what the show floor represents at RSA is what the attendees respond to. It is the free market at work. If enough so called security pros stay away from the booth babes, refuse to be scanned and truly walk away from Joe the sales guy, the exhibitors will change their tactics. But until that happens the blame rests squarely in the mirror.

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