Last minute 2014 RSA Boycotts Hurt Attendees not RSA

Jan 16, 2014 8:35:19 PM

With all of the negative attention that the NSA – RSA relationship (or deal) has been getting, many are fired up.  If the deal went down anything like it has been reported by Reuters, then rightfully so.  However, the last minute boycotts of the RSA event to show disapproval are a bit much.

While these personal boycotts affect RSA to some minute degree, they impact all of the attendees more.  RSA already has the booth payments and attendance fees so it really impacts those of us paying to attend and be educated.  Speakers and others who were scheduled to come to the event are not there for RSA’s benefit so much as for the benefit of the people who have paid to see them.  Given the scenario and the possible impacts to the security industry it is I would expect that many attendees, participants and key speakers would feel strongly using the conference as a gathering to professionally discuss their opinions, though not from the stage as that particular forum should be left for any last response from RSA.

These types of protest have happened before and they will happen again.  My issue is not with the conviction but the timing. As history has shown us, people get highly charged for a short time but by next year, most people will have moved on to other issues and either forgotten about the protests this year or feel it is not as worth their time to debate it as it once was; similar to protests that have been made in the past fading away in a years’ time.

Again, in the short run, speaker withdrawals do not affect RSA; they affect the companies and people who have already committed money and time to the event.  Rather than simply spouting bitter criticism that will have been forgotten in a year, a more productive method for demonstrating your distaste/distrust over the recent events is to be a little more calculating about what will achieve the desired results while creating the least collateral damage to attendees.

Vendors and attendees who are already paid up, let RSA, your customers, and the general public know that you will not be paying to attend next year, why you have made this choice and disclose what you expect RSA to do to regain your attendance.  Attendees who are disenchanted with the recent events should show a consistent message about their disappointment and expectations on every feedback card they receive the opportunity to fill out and on other relevant communications with RSA.  Be constructive in your criticism and feedback as vitreous comments do no good.  Speakers, should show good character and meet their commitments – doing it not for RSA, but for the attendees and the sponsors that are bringing you to the conference.

After the show wait to see RSA’s response to the feedback.  If there is insufficient or no response, make your message heard publicly in the fall when vendors and practitioners are considering registration for the 2015 show.  That is how the real message will be heard and ultimately addressed.

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David Monahan

Written by David Monahan

David is a senior information security executive with several years of experience. He has organized and managed both physical and information security programs, including security and network operations (SOCs and NOCs) for organizations ranging from Fortune 100 companies to local government and small public and private companies. He has diverse audit and compliance and risk and privacy experience such as providing strategic and tactical leadership to develop, architect, and deploy assurance controls; delivering process and policy documentation and training; and working on educational and technical solutions.

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