RSA Security Conference: to booth or not to booth


Brian Contos, CISO & VP Security Strategy,
Verodin Inc.

Do you really need or want a booth at the RSA security conference? And if you do, does it need to follow old, tired corporate patterns?

I’ve been attending the RSA Security Conference since 2000. I’ve been a vendor in a booth, speaker and attendee checking out other talks. Over the last few years the conference has gotten bigger with more people, more vendors, more marketing, more vendor talks, more square footage, etc. But has it gotten better?

Some people think of the conference as the show room floor. Honestly, I’ve probably averaged less than an hour on the floor over the last few years. But when I think of the RSA security conference I honestly don’t think about the floor - and I don’t think I’m alone.

To me RSA is about the conference room suites where meetings are held with customers in the surrounding hotels, the impromptu encounters with customers, partners and former coworkers, the prearranged PR and AR activities, customer dinners and of course the vendor parties. This is why I continue attending and these are the areas that generally lead to tangible benefits.

No offense to anyone with a booth. My company Verodin has a booth this year and I haven’t worked for a company in the last couple decades that didn’t have a booth at RSA. I’ve given away my share of cheap, plastic, branded tchotchkes. A lot of creative cycles, planning, money and resources go into the booth and outside the stream of investment bankers, recruiters, jobseekers and competitors, there are some prospects and some of those prospects end up heading to the before mentioned conference suites and or having follow-up meetings. So the booth does have value, but I don’t think it needs to be in the typical, cookie cutter, corporate format.

This year at Verodin we decided to partner with the San Francisco Exploratorium. Instead of the usual booth hitting you over the head with sales and marketing we went with something that’s near and dear to our corporate culture which is promoting STEM. In the Verodin booth you can interact with Exploratorium science gadgets and get free tickets to the Exploratorium (while supplies last). Pretty much we’re saying, “Look, Verodin is here, stay awhile and have some fun with our science projects – oh, and if you want to learn more about our company and products, let’s set something up.”

This was bold but the feedback has been extraordinary. So many people really appreciate our cavalier approach at the booth juxtaposed with our deep dive meetings in the suites. Bottom line, we’ll have a booth next year and it will be different and it will be awesome, but our standing room only conference rooms have taught us we’ll need to triple down on our hotel suites to satisfy customer interest in Verodin’s solutions. Our approach to RSA is different and our approach to the security industry is different - find out why.

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