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GSX 2022: The Show Floor Survival Guide

Whether it’s your first or twentieth, participating in the GSX conference takes a great deal of planning, discipline, and execution. There are so many opportunities to visit with peers, meet new and old vendors, look for new technology, and enhance your industry knowledge that getting off on the wrong foot could derail your entire experience.

Below is a primer on how to effectively “hit the floor” and get the most out of your 2022 GSX experience.

Get Organized

Organize your trip by starting at least two weeks before the event. If you are properly registered, you should have received a handful—to a bucket full—of emails and post cards from vendors who want you to give them some of your valuable time.

Start a folder in your smart phone to store the emails you want and discard the others. Also, make a folder for mailed communications. I usually include that with my hotel, travel, and registration confirmation folder.

Study the GSX 2022 agenda/schedule and you will see many differences from previous years. First of all, the conference officially concludes after the Law Enforcement/Military Appreciation luncheon on Wednesday, instead of Thursday like in the pre-pandemic era. The U.S. Department of State Overseas Advisory Council (OSAC) has teamed up with ASIS to present a half-day session Wednesday afternoon, instead of its annual Washington, D.C. event in November. The OSAC session, called the Travel Safety and Security Forum, is open to all GSX attendees but advanced registration is required.

Back to the schedule, make sure you have downloaded the GSX App to both your cellphone and iPad or tablet. The app gives you chances to view your schedule “at a glance.”  I have been able to save these downloads, including vendor information from previous conferences, for several years. Also, grab at least one copy of the physical Exhibitors Listing, with company information, contacts, etc. If you have room in your luggage, grab one or two for peers who could not attend.

As in the past, there will be several popular education sessions going on in the same time slot. Mark them as a priority, as well as a backup session in case there is not a seat or place along the wall to participate.

Optimize Your Time

Since the show floor time is only open 19.5 hours total, it is important to optimize your time. Stay focused. You will run into many acquaintances from the past and they will want to chat. Without being rude, exchange business cards or plan to meet after the show somewhere and move on.

When Howard Belfor and I had to tour the show floor on the first day while scouting vendors for our “Accolades” or “What’s New on the Floor” presentations, we were stopped by friends countless times. We just had to courteously excuse ourselves and plan to “circle back” later.

While you may be focused on a particular item, keep your eyes out for other vendors that you or your organization may be interested in. Sometimes you can listen-in on a demo or spiel to get information.

Be flexible—if you get invited to a demo or presentation that interests you—and go if works with your schedule. Take notes of products or talking points that interest you, so you have a reminder following the show to follow-up for more information. Ask a conference buddy to “hit the floor” with you. If your interests are similar, this can help keep you focused on the tasks at hand—and keep moving!

Make a point to hit the booths in the back rows and the First Time Exhibitor section. These are generally newer vendors who are struggling to move a worthy product. You will also get better information when you talk to the people who “started in the garage” to get to the point of exhibiting at GSX.

Bring Your Best Bag

I used to use my emptied rolling laptop bag but found out that in a crowded exhibit hall, I have tripped or almost tripped more people than I can count. I tried a backpack one year (Chicago 2019) and found myself overloading it with trinkets, tchotchkes, t-shirts, and literature. I then had to walk more than 1 mile to a reception at the end of the day, followed by a walk to the bus stop for the trip to my hotel. The next morning, I woke up with plantar fasciitis by overloading the arches of my foot. I had to pack my bags, hobble to the airport, and make my way home.

Now, especially since more information is online, I will take a synthetic leather briefcase-like bag and pack it with the following:

  • Snacks (Even though lunch will be inside the hall, it’s nice to get a snack mid-morning and before those 3:30 p.m. happy hours!)

  • Medicine (for headache, sinus issues, or as may be needed)

  • Extra business cards

  • A few of your company brochures, if applicable

  • A couple of N95 masks

  • iPad or Tablet to communicate with the office.

  • Extra battery or charger cable with AC adapter

Some Parting Pro Tips

Many educational sessions will be in the exhibit hall. While traveling to an educational session, take a different route each time. You never know what you may see!

Also, plan to stay for the entire conference and make yourself available for door prizes where possible. More than 30 years ago, I was at an alarm conference in southern California and left early to beat the Los Angeles traffic. Thirty minutes later, my phone was ringing off the hook with calls from several people who said told me I missed the $3,000 grand prize! I stayed until the end of another conference earlier in August this year and won the grand prize—a free three-day admission to the 2023 conference!

If possible, find the ASIS and local chapter organizers and thank them for their efforts. It takes thousands of volunteer hours, blood, sweat, and tears to put these annual events together.

And finally, debrief your leadership and peers within 10 days of the conference. Tell them about the keynote speakers, contacts you made, and products you reviewed, they will remember it when you put in the request for next year’s conference.

This will my 26th trip to an ASIS International conference. I have given multiple presentations during the past 25 years, but in Atlanta, I will be flying low and slow to stay off those stages, wearing comfortable shoes, and donning a jacket with pockets for business cards. I look forward to chatting with the thousands of acquaintances I have made while exploring the convention center. And don’t worry if you stop me in the hall, I’ll make time to chat with you!

Ronald Lander retired from law enforcement in 1994 and almost immediately transitioned to become an active member of ASIS. He is presently a director on the ASIS Standards and Guidelines Commission and remains active in several ASIS communities. He owns Ultrasafe Security Specialists in southern California.