Too Often, There’s No Business in Show Business

   There are too many damn trade shows and conferences in this industry!

   There, I said it. I said it on the record and preserved for posterity. I said it in the face of the likely backlash I will endure from peeved sponsors and organizers of these events. But I said what had to be said. Most importantly, I said it on behalf of the scores of manufacturers, security contractors and other industry professionals who have told me that very thing.

Granted, the fact that as I write this I am recovering from knee surgery – making a trip to the bathroom seem like a marathon (never mind trudging across a massive exhibition hall!) – probably makes this an especially touchy subject for me at the moment. Nevertheless, the electronic security industry’s calendar of events has been overloaded since well before I joined Security Sales & Integration in 1998. And it has only gotten worse.

Since the catastrophic events of 9/11, it seems like every organization associated in any conceivable way with buildings, transportation, commerce, government, education, healthcare, utilities, communications, emergency services, factories, agriculture, ports, borders or _________ (insert industry of your choice here) has created a security-related exhibition/conference. Many of them under the guise of “Homeland Security.” Enough already!I am all for team-building and realize the importance of clear communications and coordination of efforts, but too many meetings – particularly if they are poorly planned and/or executed – can be detrimental for any organization, be it a small business or an entire industry. It is also extremely counterproductive when an event becomes more about putting cash in the pockets of the organizers than about bettering a given industry (good will, education) or fostering an appreciable business gain (new customers, increased revenues).

Smaller staffs, tighter budgets and the increased cost and ordeal of traveling have made it more difficult than ever for security contractors to invest the time, personnel and money required to attend such events. Consequently, exhibitors are seeing diminishing returns on their substantial investments. Too often, dealers/integrators and vendors alike are going through the motions to make appearances out of obligation or politics, rather than being motivated by legitimate business concerns.

I am not going to single out specific events and suggest they vanish into the night. What I will suggest is that electronic security professionals concentrate resources and time on their local association meetings, select conferences when possible (there are several good ones), and the International Security Conference & Exhibition (ISC) West and the American Society for Industrial Security Int’l (ASIS) Annual Seminar & Exhibits.

These are the two annual national conventions that, over time, have proven to be head and shoulders above the rest in terms of exhibits, networking, seminars and associated events. ISC West takes place in early spring in Las Vegas (March 31-April 2 in 2004), while ASIS is held in late summer in a different city each year (Sept. 27-30 in Dallas in 2004).

Although ISC has traditionally been known as a “dealer show” and ASIS has been referred to as an “end-user show,” the lines have blurred to the point where they are simply the two most important events for all electronic security practitioners. If you do not presently attend at least one of them, I urge you to budget for it in 2004. It’s good business, which cannot be said for many of the other “events,” whose lack of strong attendance already speaks volumes.

Let’s focus on and support the great existing industry events we have, weed out the ones that are not in our best interests and go about solidifying and fortifying our businesses and industry on the home front. There are much more important matters than accumulating frequent flier miles!

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