For companies in the cybersecurity industry, there are no bigger or noisier industry conferences than those of RSA Conference and Black Hat. I’m lucky enough to have been to both several times, and it never ceases to amaze me how each year ends up being more crowded and chaotic than the last. From tens of thousands of attendees, to millions spent on advertising, to every day chock-full of news and company announcements, it’s a lot to take in.
So how, especially for companies that may be new to Black Hat, do you break through the noise and raise awareness of your company and solidify your voice as an industry leader?
This question comes up often, not only in relation to Black Hat and other cybersecurity conferences, but industry conferences as a whole. And with Dreamforce, Web Summit and TechCrunch Disrupt just around the corner, now’s the time to pull together your strategy, so here are few tips and tricks for how to best navigate the next conference you’ll be attending.
No, you don’t have to walk into Black Hat ready to talk about every possible security event, threat or hack known to man. Sure, you may get asked questions about certain threats that you may be unaware of -- in fact, this happened to two of my clients during this past Black Hat conference -- but it’s okay to acknowledge that a topic is outside your realm of expertise. In this case, deploy the age-old tactic of blocking and bridging. Say, “You know, I’ll have to look into that further, but what I can talk about is...” Use this tactic to engage with a reporter on what you do know. This will not only encourage them to write about something they might not have thought about previously, but they’ll start to get a better understanding of where you might be of help to them in the future, especially when it comes to breaking news such as the latest data breach or hack.
In that same vein, it’s not only important to stick to what you know, but to find your sweet spot - of your knowledge, what can you offer a unique point of view (POV) on that maybe the larger industry hasn’t quite picked up on yet. Maybe it’s a theory you have on where the cybersecurity industry is headed, or perhaps it’s a conclusion based on new research. Once you find that unique POV, whatever it may be, repeat it. Constantly. Let reporters, customers and partners know that whatever said topic may be is something you are not only knowledgeable on, but passionate about.
Unless your news at the show discloses some kind of new vulnerability or is related to the current news cycle in a big way (i.e. election security and Russian interference), then it’s probably best to release any announcements you have planned either before or after a large industry conference, and instead, use your presence at the show for relationship-building purposes only. Consider any face-to-face meetings with press as a chance to offer a sneak peak into announcements coming down the pipeline. This way, you’re making the meeting worth their time while providing you with a reason to follow up after the show. Don’t forget to take notes, so that when you do follow up, you have bits and pieces of the conversation to reference to make your email more personable while letting the reporter know you paid attention to them in the midst of industry conference chaos.
I’ll end by sharing some advice from my own manager when it comes to networking, which I find incredibly valuable any time I’m walking the expo floor at large conferences: “It only takes one. Find the one person who you can connect with on a human level, invest in the conversation, and I guarantee you, it will result in greater ROI than talking to 100 people for 30 seconds each.” While this wouldn’t be advice I’d share for anyone tasked with lead generation, I will say it comes in handy when talking to press. Fully investing in one press relationship or conversation a day will not only enable you to better demonstrate your level of expertise, but it will make you much more memorable and result in that same reporter reaching out time and time again in the future for your POV.