ASIS, thoughts on the exhibit floor
It was encouraging to me that exhibition floor traffic seemed much heavier on day 2, which jibes with many theories out there that a lot of attendees flew in on Monday or reserved Monday for educational sessions before checking out the technology on the show floor. Some people theorized that people didn't want to miss football games on Sunday (if so, they should have flown Jet Blue!). Others theorized that people didn't want to travel during the Rosh Hashanah holiday, which ran from sunset, Sept. 18 through sunset, Sept. 20. But there was another theory out there: This is the beginning of the end for the ASIS show as a major exhibition unless some things change. Many exhibitors are starting to feel like they're nothing but the economic fuel for getting all of the end users together to do everything but check out their products. Many are resentful of the fact that there is virtually always some educational programming going on during show hours, and, unlike ISC West, that educational programming is necessary in order for the attendees to keep their accreditation, so it's not like they can just skip out on it. Why, they wonder, isn't there dedicated time for exhibits only? Why isn't there more activity by ASIS on the show floor? This is something ESX tried to address at the Baltimore show this year, with a lunch held on the show floor each day and the NBFAA and CSAA booths having very prominent spaces on the show floor so that members would be right in the center of things when they were doing organization business. The ASIS booth is so out of the way that I was surprised when I stumbled upon it and there was pretty much nothing going on there. Of course, it's a pretty easy argument that vendors don't want show management to be taking up prime real estate in the front of the hall, so I'm not sure I'm convinced the ESX model is the way to go, and that's a far smaller show, anyway, so it may be a poor comparison. Regardless, it's noticeable that Siemens doesn't have a booth, that Bosch is in a big tent in the parking lot rather than inside the show (one vendor's stock answer to the question, "have you seen the Bosch tent?": "We prefer to actually support the industry"), that there are a lot of "relaxation areas" and very wide aisles. Is that because of the economy? Is it because people are dissatisfied with ASIS management? It's really hard to say. I think the economy is a very large factor, and that people still continue to underestimate just how bad the economy is, but more than one vendor gave me a variation on the line, "ASIS is just going to blame the economy." Maybe they're just bitter, but if enough of them feel the same way, ASIS could find itself with an annual show that's great for education opportunities, but doesn't have quite the economic engine it probably needs to fund it.