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Lexie Gunther

Published on

June 10, 2024


cybersecurity, events, PR, technology

Last year, our team returned from the RSA Conference with three key themes that were not only prevalent among conference sessions and conversations, but also aligned to our cybersecurity communications strategies. While each of those still apply, I walked away with renewed and refreshed applications this year.

When 40,000 people show up to discuss “The Art of Possible” as it relates to today’s cybersecurity challenges – and opportunities – it’s nearly impossible to not be inspired. From conversations on how generative AI is aiding defenses to new cross-sector pacts committing to better security, and even a few celebrity endorsements for the power of collaboration and prioritizing mental health, this year’s event had much to offer.

It was only fitting, then, that this optimism and excitement also filtered through the PR strategies I witnessed at the show. For a conference that continues to grow in not only individual attendance, but also vendor attendance, standing out in a sea of sameness is getting increasingly more challenging. In this blog, I’ll cover how to build standout campaigns to maximize your event attendance. After all, Black Hat is right around the corner…

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Setting the Stage

Before we applaud the activity at RSA, it’s important to understand that there was likely a lot of preparation leading up to the execution. The conception and planning phases are arguably more important than the actual launch – though that needs to go well, too. This early prep applies to your physical show presence, but should also extend to your communications presence. Thinking through product roadmaps, announcement timelines, reports and research on the horizon, and even when to reach out to reporters is all critical to having an impactful RSA presence.

With the level of investment required for not only travel and attendance, but booth design and set up, merchandise and “swag,” content and print materials and so much more, setting objectives will be required to actually measure the impact or return on investment (ROI). Having both business and marketing objectives will help you determine where to put time and resources to maximize your ROI. Does RSA provide an opportunity to improve awareness, drive new leads, foster new or nurture existing partnerships, or even recruit top talent? These are questions that will help you determine your approach, identify those key stakeholders, develop key messages and ultimately deliver on your investment.

Standing Out in a Crowded Space

The industry is often referred to as crowded or noisy – and I don’t just mean within the context of the Moscone Center in May. Earlier, I alluded to the growth of the cybersecurity industry. In fact, research indicates the global cyber security market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 12.3% from 2023 to 2030 and to reach USD 500.70 billion by 2030. And, the Cyber Research Database holds more than 3,500 U.S. cybersecurity vendors. That’s a lot to compete with.

This is precisely why the preparation phase is important when crafting your key messages, especially for a tradeshow of this size. Think about how many headlines or articles you see about let’s say, generative AI. You can then surmise that there will be quite a few vendors at a security conference talking about the implications, considerations, applications, innovations (and so on) about this topic. This isn’t unique to the generative AI topic, however. In walking the aisles of the Moscone Center, there were a number of booths that had very similar (if not identical) messaging and even creative design. In this case, if awareness and leads are your event objectives, then your brand recognition and recall just got a lot more difficult.

Extending Your Reach, Stretching Your Dollar

Booth design and banners are one way to showcase your brand, key messages and differentiators, and they are important for visibility at a tradeshow. However, these should be a piece of your overall strategy. The Moscone Center (North, South and West) consists of more than two million square feet of building area, including over 738,000 square feet of exhibit space. That’s a lot of ground to cover in a few short days. Using alternative spaces – both physical and online – to broadcast your message increases your chances of not only having it seen, but more importantly, remembered.

You may recall bus wrappers, stepping stickers on the show floor, or bus stop ads around San Francisco during this time. These are traditional “outside the expo” tactics that help get your brand noticed outside the show floor. Don’t forget team merchandise is also an opportunity to spread the word. Small (but impactful) tactics like t-shirts with logos and QR codes, branded lanyards for your badge, and other wearables help get your message out there – and on a budget. There are a lot of lines at RSA and having your message on the back of a t-shirt or backpack will be seen – whether in line at Mixt or waiting to see Alicia Keys. Make it count!

With more widely adopted technology like QR codes and near-field communication (NFC) tags, content and information can be easily accessed even if attendees don’t physically come to your booth. Creative QR codes – and the destination – help engage with your potential audience from afar. For example, more immersive QR designs or even placing them in unexpected locations sparks curiosity and fosters more engagement with users.  These tactics aren’t limited to sales content or only engaging prospects. They’re incredibly useful for PR follow up, too. If launching a product or lengthy report at the show, you can use QR codes or NFC tags to quickly share the materials with reporters, so it’s in their inbox before leaving the briefing.

A Social-First Approach for In-Person Events

Another way to engage with event participants is to capture them on their own devices, such as via social media. Many companies plan to “staff” their booth to ensure someone is always onsite to engage visitors, but you should also ensure your social media presence matches the same in-person energy.

Don’t forget the fundamentals of a customer journey. Once they move from awareness – like seeing your booth or bus ad, they’ll move into consideration and on to your digital presence. This is also a key part of ensuring virtual attendees are included in your event strategy. Live streaming booth demos or sessions, hosting live Q&As or AMAs with your executives or sales team, and responding to comments and posts are key components of your event strategy.

Don’t Let It End at Departures

With how busy schedules are at a jam-packed event like RSA, it’s likely you didn’t spend enough time to get to cover everything you hoped in conversations. With prospects, partners and press, it’s important you also have a post-event plan. If reporters were able to capture your content at the booth, are you planning to share complementary insights or comments on the matter? Are you leveraging LinkedIn connections to arrange post-RSA meetings? Whatever your next step may be, make sure you follow up once everyone has made it home safely.

Equally important follow ups are the ones with your team internally. Remember those objectives? Revisit those to see where you made progress, and where there’s room for improvement or pivoting next year. With the time between RSA and Black Hat getting shorter, these debriefs are critical to changing course and driving results before heading to Las Vegas.

While Black Hat is on the brain, it’s never too early to start planning for next year’s RSA. Taking stock of your objectives for this year, where objectives were met or where progress is needed, and listening to feedback from conversations provide a starting point for your 2025 planning. Document this information while the information is fresh, infuse it into your H2 plans and prep for next year. Ultimately, being prepared but agile in this dynamic landscape will set you up for success in maximizing your event presence.

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