Alan Shimel, fellow New Yorker and member of both the Security Round Table and Trusted Catalysts, recently posted an article suggesting that we needed to have less security conferences, because the current conferences are seeing less people attend, and companies need to make their marketing dollars go further (read it here: We need less security trade shows).

I also think the following is a telling statement:

Most of those who were walking around were “adult trick or treaters” looking for giveaways from the vendors. 

Ironically, I stopped going to most security conferences, including the much-hyped RSA conference. However, I have been known to attend from time-to-time or get exhibit hall passes if I am already going to be in the city. What I always found interesting (I would have said ironic, but that would be using ironic for a while now). One of the trends I watch is “security professionals” who believe strongly in security are some of the first in line to give up their personal information in return for a CHANCE to win a tee-shirt.

Irony aside, I agree with Alan that we need less conferences, but for a different reason. When is the last time that you went to a conference and got some serious value from it? Since we formed our company a few years back, every time I get the chance to evaluate conferences, I have never felt that I would get the value back. Sure, you can meet good people, make connections, etc. — but the conferences are generally lame and the quality of presentations is mediocre at best.

Am I being harsh? Of course. Why aren’t you? If we continue to have crappy conferences and then pretend they’re great (if only because it was a chance to get out of the office), all we will have to attend are crappy conferences.

I was really blown away the first time I attended a National Speaker’s Association event. Imagine going to an event when everyone who takes the stage to speak is a professional speaker? First thing I noticed… a LOT LESS powerpoint, a lot more substance and I actually WANTED to pay attention. Since then, I have been spoiled countless times and now expect that a successful event should be including professional speakers (who actually study the trade craft of speaking and presenting) alongside well-versed speakers (for example, people who learn and practice through Toast Master’s or the like). I think a healthy mix of both is needed for a successful event.

I’d like to see smaller events with a more powerful focus on substance. I’d like to see better speakers and more time to reflect on the passions they have shared. The more I have started to consider what I dislike about our currently available conferences and compared them to some of the excellent Speaker’s conferences, I have started to think about putting together a small, invitation-only event.

What do you think?

If you had a chance to come to a small conference to share your security passion and learn about others, would you do it? The event we have started to plan will have no vendor support, but vendors will be invited to participate (as full contributors to the conference). And all speakers will be coached and rehearsed before they take the stage and present. And we’ll have plenty of time to think, reflect and build relationships that will help advance our careers and improve the profession we have chosen (or has chosen us).

I’m thinking of limiting it to 200 people. So – would you come? And if you want to help, let me know. If we have enough interest, we’ll kick it off in 2007.

About the Author Michael Santarcangelo

The founder of Security Catalyst, Michael develops exceptional leaders and powerful communicators with the security mindset for success.

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