Updates from the GSX 2021 Show Floor: Day 2

As I mentioned yesterday, GSX 2021 is my first foray into the world of security conferences and trade shows. And if Day 1 was the day I succeeded in not drowning, Day 2 was the day I managed to tread water and even swim a little bit. The farther I walked and the more people I talked to, the more secure—no pun intended—I felt. And it gave me a sense of the irreplaceability of in-person events and real, live, face-to-face interaction with total strangers.

I’m sure that veterans of these events have collected small mountains of branded giveaways and knick-knacks: pens, notebooks, flashlights, koozies, coffee mugs, water tumblers, keychains, T-shirts, and so on. With each of these token prizes comes a conversation: approaching an unfamiliar booth, getting an overview of a company and its products, trading business cards, and adding another name to my growing network of professional contacts. A tangible reminder of that conversation—and the potential for professional collaboration—lives on in the form of, say, a bright orange stress ball, which will likely roll around in my desk drawer for the next several years.

It’s great to see old colleagues. To solidify and extend existing partnerships. To touch base with familiar people and companies, strengthen old relationships. But the unique benefit of something like a trade show is that it puts you in the same room with companies that you haven’t worked with before—people and companies and solutions that you’ve never heard of. It’s an opportunity to have a new conversation with a new face, to expand as well as deepen your network. It’s the chance to learn things you never knew you never knew.

It’s not a new observation that the digital world gives us tunnel vision. We curate our social media feeds to show us only what we want to see (things we’re familiar with, things we agree with)—and nothing else. It’s only in person that we’re forced to engage at length with the unfamiliar. And this is why, in my—again, hilariously inexperienced—opinion, trade shows will never go away entirely, even after the pandemic subsides. The Internet can never replace face-to-face interaction for the sole reason that you can’t Google a company whose name you’ve never encountered. But once the connection has been sparked, the possibility for collaboration is endless.

About the Author

Matt Jones is senior editor of Spaces4Learning and Campus Security and Life Safety. He can be reached at MJones@1105media.com

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