When Everything at RSA is Over the Top, How Can I Stand Out?

If you’ve ever been to RSA, you know it can be a mind-numbing experience. So many booths with so much noise and activity while everyone clamors for attention. As seasoned veterans of this show, security clients often ask us:

“When everything at that show is so over the top, how can we stand out?”

After walking and studying the show floor at seven RSA shows, I’d like to share a few things I’ve seen and that stick out in my mind in a positive way… and a couple of things to be wary of. What follows below are my top 10 things vendors can do to stand out at RSA.

Do something different at your booth… and no, that does not mean “booth babes” (Bo-Ring).
To give you a sense of the possibilities, last year two of the cleverest booth attractions included Nyotron’s Daniel Craig impersonator (doing his best James Bond spiel as he talked about the company’s technology) and TrapX’s body painter, who painted a woman against a TrapX backdrop so that she completely disappeared into the background. Both of those booths attracted hordes of people. In Nyotron’s case, exhibit event reps—on a number of occasions—had to tell them to thin their crowd out because they were blocking the flow of traffic.

Use a prop.
At one RSA, an up-and-coming security vendor built a demolition booth that had a bunch of antiquated firewalls from a number of well-established security companies. They then gave people a hard hat, safety goggles, and a sledge hammer, then invited them to go to town on the appliances. There’s just nothing more satisfying than taking your frustrations out on a bunch of broken electronics. One year another security company had a Formula One racing car on the floor. The vendor let people climb into the front seat and take photos. To build on the prop idea, you could offer a company T-shirt if people take a selfie with your prop and share it on Twitter with specific trending hashtags.

Plan ahead and try to get a speaking slot.
Getting a speaking slot at RSA is hard… but not impossible. It helps if your security company has a threat research arm that’s able to uncover new/unique threat data. For example, how a new piece of malware works in the wild. Once you’ve secured a slot, announce the win through a press release a couple of weeks before the show and socialize the heck out it in the run-up to the show and during the show. Do a live Tweet session during the actual presentation.

Look alive!
Enforce a two-drink maximum per employee per night. Nothing looks sadder than a booth full of security execs who are milling about nursing hangovers (yes, we can tell!). And it’s usually reflected by the fact that none of the people in the booth is making eye contact with anyone, and, as a result, their booth is practically empty.

Have some snacks/drinks at the booth for reporters.
Tons of reporters attend RSA, and they are on their feet all day walking the halls going to and from meetings. Quick note: reporters are always distinguished by a badge that’s a different color than regular conference attendees—know what that badge color is before the show starts and make sure everyone in the booth is on the lookout. Offer a monetary bonus to any staffer who draws a reporter into the booth to listen to your spiel. One way to lure them in when you see one coming towards you is to offer them some nourishment. Have some cold drinks on hand and some snacks you can offer up. The quickest way to a reporter’s heart is through their stomach.

Make sure everyone in the booth knows your product.
Make sure they’re prepared to answer high-level questions about your product. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve stopped at a security booth and asked someone standing by a kiosk how their product works only to be told they have to go find someone to explain it to me. At that point, I’m gone.

Don’t forget to promote your appearance at the show in advance of the show.
Part of RSA includes the buildup to RSA. Issue a press release two weeks before the show that says you’re going to be there and what you’re going to be showing off. A week before the show, issue another press release that highlights any other activities you have planned, such as any special guests you have coming by, times you’ll be doing special giveaways at the booth. Also, suggest that people send out specific tweets with relevant hashtags for a chance to win a great prize at the show.

Hire a special guest to stop by.
I’ve seen Scott Adams (Dilbert fame) and Kevin Mitnik (hacker fame) signing books at booths, and they’ve had lines a mile long.

Make sure your booth signage tells your potential customer who you are and what you do.
You might think your name and logo is known around the world, but you’d be surprised – with so many security companies in one place, it’s easy to get confused as to who there does what.

Last, but not least, produce some short videos highlighting key execs and customers.
There’s something about video that draws the viewer’s eyes in. If you believe a picture is worth a thousand words, then imagine how many a video is worth!

A couple extra tips.
If you have some real news you want to announce at the show, like the discovery of a brand new Zero Day or some other significant compromise, think about pre-briefing the media and breaking the news in the leadup to RSA. The competition for news headlines will be fierce at the show. How fierce? Here’s a link to a list of this year’s exhibitors that you’ll be competing against.

And whatever you do, DON’T give away flash drives at your booth. At one RSA, I walked by a VERY prominent security company’s booth and a couple of booth models-for-hire were handing out flash drives with the company’s logo on it to everyone walking by. I took one, walked a few steps, decided I didn’t need another flash drive for my junk drawer, turned around and gave the drive back to one of the models. She took it and dropped it back into her basket to hand out to the next unwitting conference attendee walking by. Anyone who knows ANYTHING about security knows how easy it is to load executable malware onto a flash drive. Can you imagine the PR nightmare someone could cause by taking a bunch of these drives, loading them up with malware and giving them back to the person handing them out only to reissue them to other attendees?

By Rick Popko

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