RSA Sees Record Numbers, Marks Comeback of IT Security Tradeshows

13,000 estimated attendees at largest RSA show yet, held in San Francisco

The changes on the exhibition floor are subtle. More goodies like food, a video game area and a Microsoft exhibit are set in the back to lure attendees all the way through.

Trade show associations also report that companies are using lighter materials to build booths, sometimes just a mixture of lights and fabric to save money. Booth models at many shows have fallen out of favor. And exhibitors are getting stingier with tchotchkes because they attract too many attendees who are just there to collect the goodies.

The growing use of customer management software is helping exhibitors track more leads from trade shows. RSA has also joined a growing industry movement to have its attendance figures and other statistics audited by an outside firm, for more credibility with companies.

Other event managers have begun experimenting with badges that include a chip that emits a radio signal. Event planners can track and get instant feedback from attendees, and attendees can find each other. But the technology also raises privacy concerns, and RSA is not using it.

LaPedis is already focused on next year's show. The theme has been selected (it involves a type of mathematics from India and a Hindu goddess). And LaPedis' team will be trying to get as many attendees and exhibitors as possible to sign up for next year's -- the single best barometer of how well they've done this year.

"It's funny, because I never even enjoyed attending trade shows before," said LaPedis, formerly an attorney. "It's a weird way to make a living."