Poker tournament offers casual networking at RSA

Amid the bright lights and frenzied networking of trade shows, gaining people's attention is often difficult, and the RSA 2007 conference in San Francisco was no exception, with 15,000 information security professionals in attendance.

Amid the bright lights and frenzied networking of trade shows, gaining people's attention is often difficult, and the RSA 2007 conference in San Francisco was no exception, with 15,000 information security professionals in attendance.

To provide a compelling draw for networking, Welz & Weisel Communications organized a poker tournament on behalf of Oakley Networks, netForensics, and Sourcefire - all makers of information security products - allowing customers, partners, and media to mingle and have fun, yet also talk business.

Strategy

Tying into the recent poker fad, Welz & Weisel organized a tournament at Jillian's in San Francisco to informally bring together customers and partners of the three sponsors, says Welz & Weisel partner Evan Weisel. "At the typical cocktail and reception hours at conferences... it's almost like high school, where people will stand in circles with people they already know," Weisel says. "This was an icebreaker."

Tactics

Invited personally and by e-mail, about 50 attendees showed up, with 28 of them playing. Fueled by free food and an open bar, and preceded by a traditional cocktail hour, play began at around 7:30pm, with attendees divided into tables of seven or eight, and ended at around 11:30pm. Players didn't need to pony up any of their own cash to play; instead, they used chips and cards that featured the sponsoring companies' logos and were available as souvenirs. The top five finishers received American Express gift cards, with the winner receiving one worth $600.

Results

Though the benefits of the event are hard to quantify, the companies' salespeople were able to meet with a number of choice prospects in an informal way. In addition, Weisel says the event helped both the companies and his own firm strengthen relationships with the 15 or so reporters and analysts who played.

Future

Another tournament is planned for next year's show, which will again be in San Francisco.

RSA Exhibitors

PR team: Oakley Networks (Salt Lake City), netForensics (Edison, NJ), Sourcefire (Columbia, MD), and Welz & Weisel Communications (Fairfax, VA)

Campaign: Texas Hold 'Em Tournament

Duration: February 7, 2007

Budget: $13,000

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