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I recently took part in my first RSA Conference in San Francisco. RSA is all about IT security, and that’s what many of our clients do. For an event like this, we plan all year to get the most out of the many opportunities there. When the conference finally arrived, it lived up to all of our expectations – and then some.
Yes, the floor is packed – often elbow-to-elbow, like a popular bar in D.C. when it serves 30-cent wings during happy hour. There are flat-screen monitors showing demos, companies serving fresh popcorn by their displays and businesses giving away lots of goodies with the spin of a wheel. (Yes, there are “booth babes” too … A presence which prompted criticism in SC Magazine this year.)
At our high-tech PR firm, we combine meticulous preparation along with seasoned knowhow – we sent a five-member team with more than 70 years combined experience, led by Tony Welz, our co-founder and principal. This ensured great exposure for our clients, with quality client placement in publications such as Network World, CRN and Information Security.
As a first-timer, I’ve found that the three following factors will contribute to success:
Flex time. Yes, the months and months of preparation matter. You need to map out a timeline of action items to be completed beforehand, such as lining up meetings with reporters. But, once you’re there, you have to stay flexible. Schedules will get pushed around. Unexpected opportunities will always present themselves. And you still have to stay on top of what’s happening with client business back home. It’s best to take hotel lobby/coffee shop breaks to take care of the latter items.
Team work. Talk about “expect the unexpected …” Due to laryngitis, I literally lost my voice during RSA. Fortunately, our team had the knowledge, experience and skill sets to step in, taking over functions that I could not perform without speaking. It helped that, before the big week, we built a margin of error into our schedules so we could adjust to curveballs like this.
Play time = quality time. At RSA, there really aren’t “off hours.” Yes, there’s plenty of socializing after the day’s activities. But that’s prime networking time. Local bars and restaurants are perfect settings to talk to reporters about their latest stories, chat up a potential prospect or brainstorm with a client.
A combination of experience, preparation and the ability to adjust on the fly go a long way to achieve success at events like RSA. In fact, we’re already thinking about next year. If I return, I look forward to working the conference without getting laryngitis …
Molly Doyle is an account executive at W2 Communications.