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The cost of doing business at the RSA Conference

Steve Ragan | March 11, 2014
Each year, hundreds of vendors head to the RSA Conference in San Francisco, California, arguably the largest security gathering in the U.S. For many of those vendors, the show is a requirement, but there's a steep cost involved. For smaller companies, the show can create a sink or swim environment.

The almost obligatory requirement to appear at the RSA Conference for security vendors has created a premium on expo space. In turn, the demand has become a lucrative business opportunity for the conference itself, as well as the contractors who help with the show.

Based on sponsorship reporting and additional marketing offerings, the RSA Conference pulled in $5,460,000 USD in 2014. This figure includes the amounts paid by the show sponsors in the North hall, as well as the fees collected for additional marketing. The up-sell on marketing can include such things as street banners, placing a company's logo on the conference badges or hotel room keys, sponsoring the press room, registration area logo placement, and much more.

The going rate for space on the expo floor was $82.50 per sq. foot, and the floor plan was created with 10' x 10' blocks as the formatted design, which are $8,250 each.

On 10' x 10' booths alone, the conference earned $1,179,750 USD in the South Hall; taking in another $1,336,500 USD on the next most popular size of 10' x 20', which are $16,500 each; and $1,980,000 USD on 20' x 20' booths that go for $33,000 USD.

Vendors that didn't pay for a sponsorship spot were packed into the South hall. This split is a good way to showcase the vendors who essentially footed the bill for the conference, but it also created an atmosphere of the "haves" and "have-nots." Several vendors remarked about the split during the week. They accepted it as part of the game, but did so begrudgingly.

During our time at the show, CSO observed more foot traffic on average in the South hall, as that is where the majority of the vendors were. It's also the location were all vendors were placed in previous years, so conference regulars were used to heading in that direction. So it wasn't clear if the split had any impact, either positive or negative, on the show.

As mentioned, there's a premium on floor space, and based on what was collected by the conference, it's clear that vendors are willing to pay to play. But booth size is only part of the total cost. Once the booth order is placed, the vendor will need to pay for other obligated extras.

For a 20' x 20' booth, a vendor will need to be prepared to pay local freight ($800 USD) and then booth property rental fees that cover carpet, additional shipping, graphics, and lighting, which are $22,000 USD. To install the booth, and later dismantle it, the vendor will pay an additional $6,800 USD, which we're told is a rather cheap as far as price goes.


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