Editor’s note: Tony Rice is a Senior Information Security Engineer at Cisco and a contributor to WRAL.com on astronomy topics.
SAN FRANCISCO – I joined over 43,000 others in San Francisco last week at one of the largest annual events in cyber security, the RSA Conference.
Trends in the industry this year include data analytics, endpoint protection, defending against ransomware, securing DevOps and securing the pervasive move to cloud computing.
Another welcome trend continued this year: the booth babe ban.
Booth babes (or “event consultants “ as they appear in marketing budgets) are models hired to attract attention at trade shows. Usually female, usually scantily clad, they bring sex appeal, and a well rehearsed, though not well understood, pitch promoting their employer’s products.
With 686 exhibitors spread across 3 buildings at RSA 2017, from start-ups to huge multi-national companies, competition for attendees’ attention is intense. However, conferences like RSA, JaveOne, E3 and others have come to understand that this style of marketing is working against the industries they showcase.
Since 2015, the RSA Conference exhibitor contract reads:
Exhibitors should ensure that the attire of all staff they deploy at their booth (whether the exhibitor’s direct employees or their contractors) be considered appropriate in a professional environment. Attire of an overly revealing or suggestive nature is not permitted.
Booth babes are just in the way.
When I’ve just got an hour before the cryptanalysis talk I’d like to catch and it’s two blocks away, the booth bunnies just slow me down. Time spent listening to “scan your badge?” followed by a 30-second speech filled with mispronounced acronyms, could be spent in a more productive conversation with the engineers in the back of the booth who actually built the product.
They are also bad for business.
Spencer Chen wrote for TechCrunch of an experiment he tried at a trade show while heading product marketing for a large software company. The booth staffed without booth babes generated three times the foot traffic and double the sales leads.
Exhibitors are also coming to understand that the attendees they are courting also attend conferences like The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing and are involved in diversity efforts within their companies back home.
Speakers at this year’s conference also shifted tech discussions to political ones addressing recent executive orders and calling for immigration reform.
“Do we believe in the power of diversity? Can we address the complex cyber security challenges on the horizon and the massive staffing crunch that faces our industry and plagues it if we continue to alienate more than half of the population across gender, race, and culture? No,” said RSA’s Chief Technology Officer, Zulfikar Ramzan in a keynote.
Vulnerabilities across government were discussed by House Homeland Security Committee Chair Michael McCaul (R-Texas) in his keynote on Tuesday. “There is no doubt in my mind that the Russian government tried to undermine and influence our elections,” said McCaul who was presented with an award for Excellence in the Field of Public Policy.
VIDEO: Michael McCaul, Chairman, House Homeland Security Committee, keynote address “The War in Cyberspace: Why We Are Losing—and How to Fight Back”