I recently attended the RSA security conference in San Francisco. It was a great experience for several reasons. I’ll likely attend next year for these three reasons.

Trade Show 🛠️

In addition to the normal 1:1 conversations you find at other trade show booths, RSA had lots of public demos going on for groups of 20-30 people. Most of the demos were fairly well attended, so I assume they are successful for both vendors and attendees.

Getting people to engage with their booth is always a challenge for vendors, but I saw 4 different booths with magicians performing magic tricks to pitch a security product.

Magic show

Vendors also increased booth engagement with giveaways. Typically free t-shirts and candy are the giveaways at trade shows, but company branded socks seemed to be the hot item this year. 🙂 I even saw a few build-your-own lego mini-figure stations.

Building min-figures

Security UIs look similar 🤓

As I walked around the trade show floor, I noticed a plethora of TVs with product demos. I knew most security product UIs look very similar, but I was reminded of how little one varies from the other.

However, similarity is not always a bad thing. A good UI is easy to navigate and use. There are known patterns people understand. While we expect most e-commerce platforms to have consistent elements, security products also common patterns.

While in San Francisco, I met with a prospective company who showed me their clickable prototype. Most of the interface followed patterns we’re familiar with, but one data-visualization was truly unique. I asked them about it, and they said, “Yeah, this part looks cool, but it doesn’t help the user.”

This is a prime example of innovative design that neglects the user’s experience. While there is room for creativity and innovation in cybersecurity product design, it is critical to test with real users. To ensure the UI doesn’t just “look cool” but serves a function.

It’s not about the conference 🤝

After meeting with prospective clients, I realized the true value of attending RSA. It’s not about the conference. RSA is an excuse for VC, startups, enterprise companies, and security practitioners to all be in the same place.

I had several meetings with clients, prospects, and industry friends, most of which didn’t even attend the conference. Instead, they spent the whole time in meetings and networking with others.

Fierce breakfast

It all comes down to this 💪

Since we are a security product design firm, RSA might be worth attending for the trade show and product demos alone. But, the primary reason I will return next year is to connect with clients, prospects, and others in the security industry.

PS - I might have hidden sticky notes on a few booths with links to the CyberJingles we created for them. 😉

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