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Trade show as mentor

There are two indicators that a trade show has gone well: 1. Attendance numbers are up from last year and 2. There’s a positive buzz on the show floor.

November 2, 2011  By  Neil Sutton

I can attest that both of those were fulfilled at the Security Canada Central show, held in October.

It’s a nice change from past years, when security industry events could sometimes feel like an exercise in hand-wringing. The economy took its toll on travel budgets and many professional security organizations suffered as a result.

I am happy to report, however, that Security Canada Central 2011 not only met but exceeded expectations. Foot traffic was steady, and the vast majority of visitors to the SP&T News booth approached with smiles on their faces and a positive attitude.

We’ll have more coverage of the show in the December issue of SP&T News, but I heard some interesting stories — everything from a very large security project underway at a Canadian retailer involving an astronomical amount of storage to a start-up company testing the waters in the near field communications market.


What was also gratifying was the number of students who came up to the booth. If there’s one thing I consistently hear at trade shows, it’s that the security business is aging and there may not be enough young people out there with sufficient interest in the industry to fill the void.

One student, probably in his early twenties, was at the CANASA show looking for job prospects. He’d recently completed a graduate program and written a thesis on the impact of surveillance in London, U.K. — one of the most closely surveilled cities in the world. He wanted to know how he could apply his research in Canada and realistically turn it into an asset that would be desirable to a prospective employer.

I know first-hand it can be tricky to turn academic achievements into real-world skills. I directed him to a few people I knew were at the show and could give him constructive advice and wished him luck.

There were a number of other students — probably an equal number of men and women — who approached the booth, interested in our magazines and eager to learn more about the business. I’m always happy to send our security magazines to recent graduates because I know that, within a few years, many of them will be making decisions, working on security projects and potentially hiring the next crop of graduates. If success stories reported in the magazine inspire them to get there faster, so much the better.

Mentoring students during that transition phase is something that the security industry needs to do better, but the active participation of colleges at trade shows is certainly a step in the right direction. Networking is as important at the beginning of a career as it is to one in full bloom — probably more so.

I didn’t get a chance to follow up with the graduate student who asked me for career advice, but I hope that the people I steered him towards took the time to answer his questions and set him on the right path.

It’s important that trade shows continue to flourish and grow. Not only do they serve as a barometer for the health of the industry, they’re also a vital meeting place where business relationships are struck, new ideas germinate and people just starting their careers get a glimpse of their potential.

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