ISC West has come and gone. And, thousands of security professionals gathered in the city of non-information...yes—non-information. (Remember? What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!) Some of us tingled with visions of lucky sevens, tens and aces, craps and poker. A lot of us golfed, visited nightly show extravaganzas and viewed the gastronomic delights.

But all the above are “extras” – products of being in Vegas, not the reason why we were there. We were sent to bring back information…the latest products, the newest technologies, biometrics and video…as security practitioners we need to know it all. And in today’s society, we need to know it as soon as it happens.

Why Do We Attend Trade Shows?

We were sent to learn! To feed our brains with information and knowledge, to search for manufacturers, providers and products that can add to our arsenal of “at hand” defensive and protective capabilities. We were in Vegas to view the latest and the greatest that our industry has created and brought to market within the last year, to see improvements and enhancements to existing products, software packages and technology solutions that can help us as security practitioners do what we do better.

How do we do that? How do we accomplish this in the most productive manner possible? Some believe that the secret is to start at the beginning of the show and methodically go aisle by aisle until you have walked the entire show. Personally…I don’t think so!

What do scuba divers and ISC attendees have in common? Nothing? Well, almost nothing. The smart diver’s mantra is “plan the dive and dive the plan.” A diver lives by this to avoid getting “caught up” in doing something that can be dangerous, things like not paying attention to his depth, or losing track of his remaining oxygen. All can present serious challenges to the diver.

At ISC West, hundreds of products in fancy booths fought for your attention. If you allowed yourself to get “caught up” in it, you can find yourself diverted from what you intended…and like the scuba diver – fail to accomplish what you set out to do.

Whenever I go to a show, I create a plan. My plan always has three parts…the “meet,” the “must” and the “might.” I create my plan prior to the show and I work very hard to stick to it.

The “meet” is my list of people with whom I need to meet. It could be a company or a person. The one thing you can usually be sure of is that if the company is important to our industry – it will be at the show. The same for an individual…an engineer, sales rep, president of the company, or what have you, they will be at the show. It is a once-a-year opportunity to get the ear of the person you need to speak with in person.

Future Show Appointments

For future shows, make appointments early; be the first to set an appointment, not the last. Always call before you go. Early morning appointments usually work best for busy people. Make an appointment and be early for your appointment. Most importantly, do all this before you get to the show. It is your best opportunity to actually spend time with a key individual. And, if you haven’t made an appointment prior to arrival at an upcoming show, go to that person’s booth on the first day, and try to get an appointment. Many times it’s first come, first served, but you might get lucky.

The “must” is what I need to do and must accomplish. It could be looking for and evaluating a new NVR product. Maybe it's comparing products available in the current RFID market to implement an asset tracking system, or it could be a new intelligent video camera. Whatever the “must” is, it takes priority and is the focus of my show plan. I usually do this (make my plan) the first morning of the show. I do it while the show is warmed by newcomers anxious to rush through the show so that they can have “free time” later. I sit over coffee and go through the show guide, get the numbers of the booths on my “must” list, and prepare my walking map so I get to all my “musts” accomplished in the first two days. I must get my “musts” done to have a successful show.

The “might” is what I’d like to get to. I “might” get to it but if I don’t get to it, that’s okay, but I’d really rather get to it than not. The mights are usually informational. It’s about items I don’t need but would like to know more about, get a look at and better understand. This is also the time that I do my show floor wandering, get popcorn, eat free ice cream bars and complain about my feet hurting.

Take a chance and try my way of seeing the next trade show that you attend. You’ll get more accomplished, finish what you meant to get done and feel better about getting this year’s list finished. Good luck!