Education: Manufacturers vs Conferences

By John Honovich, Published Apr 19, 2010, 08:00pm EDT

Conferences depend heavily on manufacturers for funding. To that at end, an admission by an ISC executive that their, "educational offerings have fallen short in past years ... as they were predominantly sales pitches from manufacturers" is an interesting and important disclosure.

As we first examined in October 2009, ISC is attempting to improve their educational offering to make it less commercial. However, complaints about ISC West's educational quality continue with one attendee commenting, "I attended this year and found the entire educational opportunity to be a waste of time. Absolutely the worst I have ever seen at any isc event."

In response, the ISC executive emphasized their plan for 2011 was to conduct "a build-up versus an aggregation; leveraging our industry Advisory Board - and others - to provide consensus on the real issues facing the different job functions in the security industry for 2011; and our staff finding the best content to address those issues (versus selecting from what has been offered to them)."

A key problem is that while ISC charge attendees $500 - $1000 for the conference, speakers receive no compensation. Speakers must volunteer. The only group excited about volunteering are manufacturers who can hype their category, if not their product itself.

If the conferences put pressure on the manufacturers, who will present? Conferences need free content and the manufacturers are the ones to deliver it. We are seeing a related issue develop with the ASIS conference where many exhibitors feel the conference is structured poorly to bring attendees to exhibits. Conferences need exhibitor booth fees and the manufacturers are the ones to deliver it. 

A tender balance exists between the two groups. The rise in manufacturers conducting their own 'roadshows' simultaneously makes conferences less needed for manufacturers and less valuable for the user/integrator who can get 'education' closer to 'home'.

We think this is an interesting dynamic for industry insiders to track. Of course, we see the rise of on-line information options cutting into the historical control conferences and magazines had on education.

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