This year marks my first trip to RSA Conference in San Francisco. I wanted to take a step back and reflect on what I want to gain from the conference. Like many analysts attending, my diary looks like the baubles on a Christmas tree, hung resplendently with meetings, briefings, and everything in between.

Here are a few things I’ll be looking for as I go to the event this year:

  • What’s new that’s going to disrupt the industry? One of the things I enjoy most about going to these conferences is the ability to spend time with early-stage companies. Some of the freshest and most disruptive ideas I’ve seen in the two years that I’ve been an analyst have come from companies at this stage of their development. I plan to try to catch the Innovation Zone at RSA and Sandbox to check out some of the latest startups in the US and beyond. One interesting thing for this year’s Innovation Sandbox is the higher levels of funding and more advanced stages that most companies this year are at. Many of them have raised Series A funding already and are on the way to being quite established — that’s a very different profile compared to 2019.
  • What is the theme of 2020 going to be? I am going to be keen to see if there’s any key theme to what I see and hear at the stands, briefings, and talks. In 2019, Zero Trust was the big theme; one of my colleagues was reportedly nearly run over by a bus emblazoned with Zero Trust. In 2020, I’m going to hazard an educated guess that I’m going to hear a lot about SPOGs (single panes of glass), SOAR (security orchestration and automation), and AI. This reflects my bias of coverage toward service providers, but I also think that human security (e.g., the future of the CISO role, human behavior and cultural change, and mental health in the security industry) and Zero Trust implementation will feature strongly and more broadly at the conference this year.
  • Now is probably not the best time to tell me about that new widget. With an average of 14 meetings per day, most of which are quite short and sweet, now is probably not the time to give me that detailed briefing with 224 slides detailing every product feature you’ve launched at RSA. With that volume of meetings and jet lag (I’m based in the UK), I’m probably not going to retain all that information. Save detailed briefings for the regular briefings process, and spend the time getting to know my coverage and striking up a conversation about where we have mutual interests and can continue to work together after the show. I don’t travel to the US that frequently, so let’s use this face-to-face time in a mutually beneficial manner.
  • Be prepared to talk at a regional level. As a UK-based analyst with a significant portion of my coverage dedicated to the European region, I am particularly interested in hearing how customers in my region experience and use companies’ products and services. That state mutual fund in Ohio or hospital in Denver isn’t going to be that interesting to me, so save those for others.

I look forward to meeting with various contacts, new and old, and to a first RSA Conference in two weeks’ time.