The Silicon Review
Globally, there is a massive spike in data volumes, cyber threats, and complex remote working challenges. This has forced organizations to change their technologies and strategies constantly to maintain their cybersecurity efforts effectively. To address the ever-changing considerations, cybersecurity personnel must stay informed and learn from the people who have already tackled those same challenges. Therefore, leading organizations encourage staff to participate in worthwhile cybersecurity conferences and briefings. Some of the activities in a top-notch event will include presentations by both cutting-edge thought leaders and plugged-in government agencies such as the US Secret Service, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security, discussing current national and international cybersecurity trends. A quality summit will also offer CISO and CIO panel discussions, educational content from subject matter expert speakers, interactive Q & A panel discussions, demonstrations by new innovators in the space, and a showcase of the latest products and services to help address all cybersecurity needs.
Globally, there are numerous cybersecurity conferences, but one that stands out from the rest is Data Connectors. Aside from conducting Cybersecurity Conferences in 50 cities each year across the US and Canada since 1999, they have built a community that fuels the collaboration between cybersecurity professionals and solution providers that is second-to-none. The first industry group to move to an all-virtual schedule amid the COVID-19 crisis, Data Connectors has built an immersive Virtual Summit presence that has bridged the requirement for education and knowledge-sharing among cybersecurity professionals, which is now more important than ever.
Each summit also features a panel discussion to give unbiased information and share the experiences, challenges, solutions, and best practices of the leading CIOs and CISOs in their local community. There are also 10-12 additional subject matter expert presentations discussing current cybersecurity threats and solutions in their local region, 30-60 cybersecurity exhibits and demos, and valuable networking opportunities. Dawn Morrissey founded the firm in 1999, based in St. Louis, Missouri.
In conversation with Dawn Morrissey, Founder and CEO of Data Connectors
Q. Tell us about your services in brief.
Since 1999, Data Connectors has facilitated partnerships between cybersecurity professionals and solution providers in our community, which has grown to over 650,000 members and 250 active vendor partners. Our members enjoy educational sessions from industry leaders, innovative solution providers, and government agencies such as the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and the US Secret Service. Our members also benefit from our CISO/CIO panel discussions, keynote speakers, and Live Q&A sessions featuring industry leaders.
Our community has always been about connecting people where they are. The live conferences we have brought to 45 cities across North America each year have enabled us to do that. Since the beginning of COVID, we quickly pivoted to a live virtual summit platform, being the first company to do so. These Virtual Summits provide a new way-- *maybe* even a better way--to bring together people who are at the intersection of technology, policy, and security, while in a safe and healthy environment. Since the onset of COVID in late March, Data Connectors has hosted 25 live virtual cybersecurity summits across North America—five times more than any other cybersecurity event company making us the leading provider in virtual conferences. In addition to the live presentations mentioned earlier, our virtual summits include a Solutions Showcase (virtual exhibit booths) with the latest offerings -- to give our attendees a one-stop-shop for the information they need to better accomplish their job and maybe accelerate their career.
Q. Why do you think there is a need for a dedicated platform to discuss cybersecurity trends?
At times like this, community is more important than ever. Our members think of Data Connectors as a resource they can count on, as we have been connecting cybersecurity professionals for more than 20 years. Now, more than ever, there is a need to keep our cybersecurity community informed, updated, and prepared for the next cybersecurity attacks. We have found a way to do this in a live virtual summit format. The community members consistently remind us that these summits are a great way to keep up with the newest technology offerings and to make sure they are staying on top of the most effective solutions to their security challenges.
Q. What is the current market landscape of cybersecurity?
Protection against cybercriminals is a never-ending battle, and there are never any “winners.” Each side continually evolves its technology, and we’ve even seen the rise of “grey crime,” where nation-state actors get involved in corporate espionage-type attacks. Since COVID, work from home has become the new norm, and this has increased American businesses’ vulnerability. Attack vectors are more numerous and must be mitigated outside of the normal office boundaries. Finally, there are insider threat considerations — both intentional and accidental — that are exacerbated in a dispersed workforce environment. Email Security, Endpoint Security, and Ransomware seem to be the most troubling challenges during normal times, but have been especially troublesome since the onset of COVID quarantine restrictions.
Q. Tell us about the scalability of your events. How does it affect the cost?
For now, we moved our entire schedule to Virtual Cybersecurity Summits, and will continue this through at least June of 2021. Data Connectors has always been able to provide interaction for professionals in cities across the continent. Not just New York and LA, but Little Rock and Des Moines, too. The community has deeply appreciated the interaction in their own community. Being virtual means that we can address an even wider audience and bring this collaboration to regions we’d been unable to serve as completely in the past. This helps us to foster professional cybersecurity associations that find importance in maintaining close ties among their chapter members. Our Summits forge a closer bond between key government agencies like the FBI, Secret Service, and DHS-CISA, along with cybersecurity solution companies, and the IT executives in each community. Thus, a majority of our events are based on single geographic locations. Some of our events may combine cities that share a regional economy. This saves our solutions partners and our 650,000-member cybersecurity community time, money, and safety by not having to travel to events and incur the costs and health risks associated with traveling.
Q. How do you deal with Logistics management challenges and understand attendee expectations for value-added events?
We have had to double our staff to keep up with demand from our cybersecurity community and our solutions providers since the onset of COVID. Through our 20 years of experience, we know that keeping up to date on current trends is the key. We know our attendees expect information on the newest threats to ensure their organizations remain secure. They want to learn, and problem solve at our conferences. We also offer Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits at each of our Summits.
Q. Building relationships with the community is a great marketing tool. How do you ensure that their vision aligns with each other?
What we hope is that their visions do not always align. There is a need for discussion and examination of ideas. Cybersecurity challenges encompass many areas, and no two companies will take, or should take, the same approach. Yet, as a community, ideas can be vetted more efficiently, and progress occurs more quickly due to collective knowledge.
Q. Networking is one of the critical aspects of conferences, but virtual conferences pose a huge limitation, as attendees don’t get an opportunity to have one on one discussion with each other. How can we overcome this hurdle?
Our virtual platform provides an exceptional level of interaction available to our members at the Virtual Summits. Each person can network with every one of their peers, using the “Who’s Online” feature, our virtual “lounge” feature, and our interactive “leaderboard” for being involved in activities in the virtual exhibit booths and presentation sessions. There is a tremendous amount of cybersecurity knowledge represented by the hundreds of people that are live online at each venue to be shared in real-time. Also, our platform allows real-time chat, email, and video chat to connect with peers. We also offer a live Q & A feature for asking questions in real-time during interactive panel discussions and keynote addresses.
Q. How accessible is your event? Can attendees catch other interesting sessions which they might have initially missed?
Each of our live Virtual Summits is available to each registered cybersecurity professional on-demand for 60 days following the summit to access presentations, datasheets, white papers, and other information that is useful to them. In virtual conferences, a key component of accessibility is the cost of the event. Data Connectors is the only cybersecurity event provider that provides free access to its members.
Q. How do you market your services?
We use a variety of marketing tactics. We advertise heavily via web and social media. We have also cultivated a massive database of members, whom we contact when we are in their local area.
Q. Do you have any new services ready to be launched?
So many. We recently added entirely new offerings like our CyberConnect Web Briefings, Dedicated Email Sponsorships, syndicated content offerings, and several new bespoke sponsor opportunities. As audiences start to experience a sort of “digital fatigue,” staying ahead by consistently coming up with new offerings is paramount to success. Accomplishing this is not as much a management talent for me, but rather a listening one - the best ideas come from our attendees, partners, and my dedicated staff.
As we roll into 2021, there is a tremendous cybersecurity skills shortage. Look for Data Connectors to add a job board, speaker and presentation repository, on demand educational content, and a series of thought-leadership articles we will share both on our own site and in industry-leading publications.
Q. What are your trajectories for the next five years?
Conservatively I expect that over the next three to five years, our team and revenues will both double in size. I also expect to branch out and solidify our standing as the largest cybersecurity community in North America, Mexico, and the Caribbean. For a complete list of our upcoming summits.