RSA 2009 - bang or bust?
As the old saying goes, "if a tree falls in the forest and there's nobody there to hear it, does it make a sound?" The same can be said about RSA 2009, which took place last week in San Francisco. Arguably the biggest IT security show of the year, RSA typically arrives with much fanfare and a flurry of activity as security vendors, researchers and writers prepare to take in all that the show usually has to offer. I had the opportunity to experience RSA first-hand this year and I have to say - it was lackluster, at best. Without sounding like a broken record, it's quite clear that trade shows are more and more frequently falling by the wayside as a core tenet of marketing and PR plans in 2009 and beyond.
Besides the fact that foot traffic on the show floor was noticeably down and keynote sessions -- particularly Obama's cybersecurity czar Melissa Hathaway's session -- were uneventful, I was perhaps more surprised that social media chatter was relatively low. Given how many security pro's and reporters alike are all over Twitter and the blogosphere, I was certain I'd see a huge uptick in chatter across both areas. Not so this year -- at least not from my vantage point. All told, it certainly felt as though RSA was a figment of my imagination, had it not been for the slew of PR activity I was involved in on behalf of one of our security clients. No real trends or hot topics came out of the show this year, nor were there any major news announcements to shake things up.
To me, what this signals is an overall change in how companies are approaching trade shows today. Aside from reduced budgets allocated to events of RSA's caliber, companies are continuing to seek new ways to connect with users in smaller, more intimate settings - both live and virtually. This was reiterated by The 451 Group analyst Paul Roberts where he duly noted that:
So, I'd like to turn the conversation over to you. Do you think trade shows are relevant in the socially connected environment in which many companies are doing business today? And - if you were at RSA this year, do chime in - was it worth it for you?