Original article published by William Pao on asmag.com.
ISC West took place July 19-21. It was the first major security tradeshow held live since the pandemic. While asmag.com was not able to go due to travel restrictions, we spoke with some exhibitors to see what they thought of the show.
ISC West is one of the premier trade events in the world of security. The show was postponed and then cancelled last year due to COVID-19. With the pandemic easing a bit (before the Delta variant surge anyway) and mass vaccination efforts in the U.S., ISC West resumed this year at its usual venue of Sands Expo in Las Vegas, albeit held in July instead of its March-April timeslot.
Smaller but more personal
Needless to say, the show this year was smaller, due to continued travel restrictions and health/safe concerns. In an earlier interview with asmag.com, Will Wise, Group VP for Security, Transportation, Gaming at organizer Reed Exhibitions, said this year’s event was shaping up to be “around 40 percent of 2019 levels.” To many exhibitors, that was immediately noticeable.
Yet for exhibitors, lower attendance also meant better engagement with attendees. “While the volume of attendees was less than prior years, the quality of engagement exceeded expectations. The pace of the show was certainly lighter, however this enabled a more relaxed environment for greater dialogue with attendees,” said Brad Aikin, Director of Field Marketing and Training at Allegion.
“As expected, there was a smaller footprint of exhibitors and fewer attendees. For Genetec the attendee mix at our booth was almost exactly 50/50 end customer/integrator. While attendance was lower, the upside was the ability to have in-depth conversations and product demos that were not rushed,” said Kyle Hurt, Senior Director of Sales for USA at Genetec. “What did not change, however, was the true dedication to being a part of an industry that is constantly innovating, evolving, increasing safety, and enhancing business operations. Everyone who attended was genuinely engaged in the exhibitor solutions, the educational tracks, and continuous learning from their peers.”
Many exhibitors were impressed with the quality of attendees this year. “It was great to participate in a live event. This year understandably, it was a much smaller show, both in terms of the number of exhibitors and attendees. However, many of the people we did see were very knowledgeable and looking for answers to specific questions,” said Mohammed Murad, VP of Global Business Development and Sales at Iris ID.
“We were pleased with the quality of attendees. We found that the people who attended were looking for solutions to very specific business problems. And although foot traffic was down, our booth was busier than expecting,” said Deena Rataezyk, Marketing Manager at SAFR.
‘That energy can’t be replaced’
For exhibitors, running a booth at a live show felt like a return to normalcy, even just for three days. “The show floor had great energy. There seemed to be a universal sentiment that people were ready to get back to business as usual,” Rataezyk said. “We were thrilled to be able to host walk-up traffic with face-to-face meetings. That energy just can’t be replaced.”
“It was great to be on the floor and see some semblance of normalcy or a ‘new normal,’ if only briefly. Attending the ISC West show this year gave me a burst of energy to take into Q3 and Q4,” Murad said. “I was excited to get back on the road to not only see colleagues in the industry but, to speak on what’s new at Iris ID and our products. There is such a different feel talking to people face-to-face vs. an online platform. Additionally, being able to see live product demonstrations and handle the products add an additional layer of excitement and enhance the interaction between the buyer and our company.”
Indeed, “irreplaceable” was how the exhibitors summed up the live experience. For most of them, and the rest of us in security in general, the better part of 2020-2021 was spent meeting customers and partners online. Being able to reconnect with people live was an experience that, for them, felt priceless.
“The pandemic has given us all, from both a professional and personal perspective, a newfound appreciation for value of human connection. Attending ISC West in person was another opportunity to feel that appreciation in ways we took for granted prior to March 2020. The security industry is extremely close-knit, and we never lost that, but being back together in person again reconfirmed it,” Hurt said. “Being back at an in-person event felt great after 18 months of isolation. The feeling of camaraderie, reconnecting with colleagues we had not seen in over a year and a half, and finally meeting new colleagues who joined the industry since the pandemic began felt amazing. The value of in-person was felt throughout the show floor.”