I genuinely despise trade shows. Over excitable sales people who understand the product or service they are trying to sell, but not the problem it’s hopeing to solve. The “nobody wins” exchange of you giving your permission to be marketed to and suffering a 2 minute elevator pitch for a product you have no intention to buy, in return for a t-shirt that will forever remain unworn or some novelty item you’ll palm-off as a “present” to your kids.
Horrible, horrible, horrible. Especially when vendor booths are the ONLY reason to be there (sponsored booths as a way to fund a small conference are less problematic and generally less invasive)
I have to admit, I do love playing on the vendors pre-convieced prejudices. If I turn up in my suit with my hair tied back, I get mobbed walking from stand to stand, but let my hair down, put on some sportswear and some 501s and I become invisible (and those who know me, will know that sportswear actually costs many times more than my suits).
So recently, when I was down in London for two vendor events (ironically vendors I’ve signed huge POs for in the past, who saw past the long hair and vintage adidas) filling the gap between them with the DTX (formerly IP Expo) Trade Show wasn’t top of my list of things to do, but it was nominally better than sitting alone in my hotel room.
As usual I examined the list of speakers and with the exception of (I assume paid) speakers such as Carole Cadwalladr and Jenson Button, it was mostly people from a company talking about a problem where they just happened to have a product to help resolve that problem. But I continued to highlight the talks that interested me, like a kid in the 80s with the Christmas edition of the Radio Times, which lead me to make this comment on twitter
Now anyone who is familiar with UK BSides type community-driven Security conferences will probably be aware of the Beer Farmers, who take on the guise of a band (including the a changing line-up) who attempt to do InfoSec awareness partly through light-hearted mockery (normally of themselves) and partly through orangising events. In 2019 they hosted their first 24hr virtual conference “BeerCon 1” attracting some of the biggest names in the industry, but after 2 more vitrual conferences, they moved into the real world at DTX with “BeerCon 4”.
The BeerCon Beer Gardan (set dressed as an actual Beer Garden, sadly without the beers until after the talks had finished), became my base for my two days at DTX. I did visit other stages and even chatted to some vendors (those who saw through my disguise, or simply took pity on me), but I always headed back to the Beer Garden as there was always another great talk to start. Even between talks, that random conversations that started were done so with the knowledge that nobody was waiting for the right moment to pitch their amazing solution. It was people who cared about improving Cyber Security, not selling products.
My general experience of the BeerCon Beer Garden lead me to make this comment on LinkedIn, which I still stand by.
I genuinely think DTX and The Beer Farmers may the stumbled across a special sauce here. There are plenty of people with puchase power, who wouldn’t dream of going to Trade Shows (I also know of CISOs who go with a “Security Analyst” badge to avoid pushy vendors). Properly advertised, this type of event could be the draw that tradeshow organisers need to get new blood into their events.
Similary, as massive advocate of the for-the-community, by-the-community InfoSec events such as BSides getting a space at events like DTX is a great way to show the corporate IT world that learning about new areas of infoSec doesn’t need to be an expensive way to collect CPEs, it can be interesting and entertaining too!
So, lets have much more of this in the future please!
Most of us bang on about Corportate InfoSec not taking it seriously enough, not enough of us are doing enough to make Corporate InfoSec sit up and listen. When you see the BeerCon stage packed and big name vendors stages near-empty, you know things are starting to change for the better!
All the talks from BeerCon4 can be found here