Attending RSA Conference is like being at a giant class reunion where everyone still has homework to do. Catching up with old friends working at new companies is great (and it usually starts at the airport), but most of us work hard during the week. Depending on where I worked, I have spent previous conferences sitting through sessions, checking out vendor booths, joining customer or partner meetings, or doing booth duty. One year, while I was between jobs, I flew out to RSA Conference just to network. And I’ve even joined meetings with (gasp!) analysts, including some who are still at rival firms.

But this is the first year I’m attending RSA Conference as an analyst, and I have different expectations. I’ll have more meetings than ever before, and my free time is at a minimum — if you haven’t already booked a meeting with me, you’re probably out of luck. Those meetings, and the mad scramble around the expo floor to get from one meeting to the next, will let me extract some trends.

So what will I be looking for?

  • What stories are the vendors telling? If I come by your booth, I’m not looking for a demo. I am interested in what your booth has focused on and why. What are your key themes this year? Are you highlighting key product announcements, innovative use cases, or partner relationships? If you don’t have a booth, how are you engaging with customers and partners at the conference? What do you hope a customer or prospect will remember?
  • What’s new? I plan to attend the Innovation Sandbox, and I hope I’ll have time to check out the Early Stage Expo. I am looking for trends among the startups: Are there clusters of vendors attacking the same emerging market? Are vendors offering new approaches to old problems or extending existing approaches into new use cases? Any companies look particularly promising?
  • Who’s going to help me fill my buzzword bingo card? If you are splashing terms like “machine learning” or “Zero Trust” all over your booth, I expect it to make sense within the context of your offering, and I expect that you’ll be able to back up the words with something real. Last year, I passed one sign that said something like “Blockchain-enabled AI” and died a little inside. Please don’t.
  • What will be the top news stories leading into the event? A few years ago, the impending GDPR deadlines inspired a lot of sessions. In other years, a particularly egregious breach has made its way into various presentation decks. At the start of last year’s conference, Adi Shamir’s inability to join the cryptographers’ panel due to visa issues created a stir. What will drive the conversation this year? The 2020 election? Disinformation campaigns? The coronavirus?

See you in San Francisco!