Should Integrators Go to PSA-Tec?By Brian Rhodes, Published on May 22, 2012
Trade shows typically are run by manufacturers, for manufacturers (except for ASIS which is simply controlled by manufacturers). By contrast, PSA, a co-op of integrators, offers an event that they claim is different, run by integrators for integrators. We paid our own way and went to their event, PSA-TEC, to check it out.
In this note , we report out on our experience during our three day stint, contrasting it with ISC West and ASIS.
The most important thing noticeably different about PSA-TEC was that the event does indeed center around educating integrators. This results in a different tone and feel compared to ISC or ASIS. Instead of flashy booth promotions and a dominating show floor, PSA-TEC's activities center around breakout training rooms.
ISC West and ASIS do host educational sessions like PSA-TEC, but important differences exist. PSA focuses more on specific integrator training rather than product marketing. The week long training schedule surrounds only a single day of trade show, where manufacturers are focused on listening to member feedback and addressing issues rather than overt self promotion.
Training sessions are divided into product specific certifications, technology / business 'best practice' roundtables, and professional development seminars. These seminars are scheduled concurrently with each other, so prior schedule planning is important for those attending. In general, the PSA directed sessions were tightly moderated and void of manufacturer self-promotion. However, some of the peer-moderated (integrator led) roundtables got pitchy and were less informative.
In general, the sessions delivered meaningful content. I found that some of the sessions attempted to cover too much ground for the time alloted. However, this did not seem to reduce takeaway value, and several integrators with decades of experience remarked about the usefulness of the sessions. For example, a session titled 'Security Project Management' covered rarely addressed fundamentals of project execution like work scheduling, optimization of labor hours, and project transition to service and maintenance phases. Other sessions, such as 'Selling to the IT Department' simply tried to address too broad of a topic and tended to take tangential paths of discussion often.
An interesting commonality among all the sessions were how frequently and unguarded integrators participated in discussions. Unlike training sessions at ISC or ASIS, where integrator members may be somewhat intimidated or discouraged from 'interrupting the script' during manufacturer presentations, I found that integrators spoke freely and often during PSA sessions. This open communication seemed to be bolstered by the confidence that many integrators shared sessions with familiar names and faces.
The PSA-TEC trade show is small compared to 'megashows' like ISC or ASIS, and is only scheduled for a single day. 'Big names' like Axis had significantly smaller presence than what typically is seen, and the largest booths were occupied by the largest PSA partners. For example, Arecont Vision hosted the largest trade show booth of all the camera manufacturers, and along with Axis, bigger players like Sony and Vivotek occupied single tables on back aisleways.
In all, the 100 or so exhibitor booths can be all visited in the single day provided. I found manufacturer representation in the booths was mixed, with some booths staffed by executive level management, and others sending regional salesmen.
Much of the messaging and information shared throughout the event is PSA specific. While the event is open to the general public, the assumption that attendees are PSA members may cloud or obscure important details. For example, when I discussed pricing during the trade show, some manufacturers deferred to the PSA price lists not publicly available to non-members. While the training and trade show are useful to those outside the network, the correlation between attendees and PSA membership is so strong the information might be disorienting to non-members.
If one is looking for open and critical dialogue in persons with integrators, this is a good event and unlike any of the major security shows we have attended. However, if you are primarily looking to meet with manufacturers or see new products, you would be best served by attending ASIS or ISC West.