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Trade shows are an important part of the US security industry

The Major Security Trade Shows in North America

Trade shows are a key part of the marketing mix for most established companies in the US security equipment market. However, new entrants should not assume that something done by competitors is necessarily correct. There are some remarkably successful companies who never exhibit at trade shows.

Especially for new entrants, trade shows can be expensive and unproductive. Because of the size of these shows, it is difficult for new exhibitors to be noticed. They will be in a small booth far from the entrance to the show. From my perspective, it does not make sense to exhibit without also making some promotional efforts. It absolutely does not make sense to exhibit to "get a feel for the market and customer reaction". I have seen many overseas companies do this when they first looked at the US market. This information can be obtained much more efficiently, accurately (and cost effectively) with market research.

Here is my run-down on the main shows. E-mail me for more specific advice.

ISC East and ISC West

By far the largest shows, in terms of attendance and exhibitors, are the two major ISC (International Security Conference)Shows, ISC East (August/September/October) and ISC West in Las Vegas (March).

For many years, ISC East was held only in New York, After an unsuccessful move to Orland last year, it is now renamed and relocated to Washington as the National Summit on Security to be held in October. This is an attempt to help the industry feed at the public trough of Homeland Security.

The ISC Shows attract a large attendance from alarm dealers. The alarm dealer market is the focus of the majority of exhibitors. The organizers point to the number of attendees who are security directors, consultants, systems integrators or specifiers of some kind. However, if these are your targets, you should not exhibit at ISC. There are better solutions detailed below.

Security Canada

Canada is a different market from the US, though much of the same equipment is sold there. It has a population less than California, split into three centers of population. Many companies new to North America choose to focus on the US and leave Canada till later. This is a wise policy unless one has a large trade show budget. The shows are colloquially referred to as "Canasa", which is the acronym of the trade association that runs them. Security Canada Central is a highly successful annual trade show.

America's Security Expo

A name that might confuse visitors to America: the show is focused on Central and South America and always based in a southern US location, Florida or Texas (Miami now seems to be the permanent venue). You should exhibit here only for markets South of the US, not for the US itself. That said, it is an outstanding show for its target market, and much better for exhibitors than any or all of the trade shows located in Central and South American countries.

ASIS (American Society for Industrial Security)

A very large show run by the industry body with the largest membership. Held usually in September, and in a different city every year. Typically, members of ASIS hold a position in the security organization of a large company. Their interests extend to much more than just security equipment and the show covers uniforms, background checks, investigative services and many other areas in addition to equipment. The show is massive and it is very difficult for a new exhibitor in a small booth to achieve worthwhile results without some promotional efforts. However, if you want to sell to the corporate security market, the ASIS show delivers in numbers that cannot be matched elsewhere.

NFPA (National Fire Protection Association)

The World Safety Conference & Exposition run annually by the NFPA is the show for fire professionals, and worth exhibiting at only by companies who need to have their equipment specified as part of fire systems.

CES (Consumer Electronics Show)

A show that covers the gamut of consumer electronics - it spreads over multiple exhibition facilities in Las Vegas and no-one could actually get round everything even if they tried. Exhibitors are usually trying to interest people who sell and distribute consumer electronics products. It is not heavily used by security companies, since the retail channel for security is limited, and the appropriate people can be contacted by more efficient means than by exhibiting here.

CTST - CardTech/SecurTech

A show that focuses on smart cards and biometrics. It got a boost in importance from the burgeoning interest in biometrics following 9-11-2001. Smart cards have struggled to gain traction in the US security market (indeed in any market), but if it starts happening, you will see it first here.

HAA (Home Automation Association) Show

This used to be a small separate show devoted to home automation equipment and of limited interest to security companies. It is now co-located with the ISC Show (see above). The fact that the name has been preserved may mean the organizers hope to run it as a separate show again in the future, as the home automation market evolves.

Regional Alarm Association Shows

Typically Regional Trade Shows are run by a state alarm association. They vary widely in terms of quality, attendance and professionalism. Most of them are limited to table top displays, and US manufactures would usually send only their local salesman to man a modest display. They appear cost effective, but for a new entrant to the market, they are not a good solution. Some of the larger ones could form part of a coherent market trial, but would be part of the main trade show plan only after the ISC Shows had been adequately funded. The largest and most professional of the regional shows is the Northeast, known as NEAC. Following this would be the California shows and the Metropolitan show in New York. Associate membership in the state association is often required for exhibitors.