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Vegas Conventions: Networking Events for Learning and Enjoyment

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By James R. Lint
Faculty Member, School of Business, American Military University

We often hear about our bosses attending conferences and symposiums in Las Vegas. We might think they are just having fun and wasting time.

The reality is quite different. They did not get to that level of authority without a network of knowledgeable people, many of whom they’ve met at such events.

Las Vegas, once known only for its gambling tables, today is a magnet for conventions. In 2015, there were more than 21,000 conventions that were attended by more than 5.8 million visitors.

Las Vegas Boasts Three-Fifths of the World’s Largest Hotels

Las Vegas is home to 15 of the world’s 25 largest hotels. The city has 3.2 million square feet of show space and can host multiple large conferences and conventions simultaneously. According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, there are 150,000 hotel rooms and more than 11 million square feet of meeting and exhibit space.

Upcoming Conferences Include CES, SHOT Show and DEF CON                                                 

The large global technology event CES 2017 will be held January 5-8, 2017. It will be the 50th year of exhibiting next-generation innovation in the electronics industry, sponsored by the Consumer Technology Association. CES 2016 set a new record with 177,393 attendees.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation’s SHOT Show® will follow on January 17-20 with a focus on shooting sports, outdoor hunting and law enforcement industry needs. 2015 was a record-breaking year at the show with 64,000 attendees.

Many law enforcement professionals attended the show’s Law Enforcement Education Program, which held sessions on such wide-ranging topics as mission-specific tactical optics and getting the most out of your organization’s working dogs. An estimated 1,600 exhibits are planned for 2017.

DEF CON is the best-known cybersecurity conference. It is billed as one of the world’s largest annual hacker conventions with approximately 15,000 people in attendance in 2015. This year DEF CON will celebrate its 25th anniversary on July 27-30, 2017.

DEF CON provides a diverse number of events, including speeches by hacking and cyber protection experts. (Some speakers do not use their real names but they always provide a method of contact.) DEF CON is full of hackers, including many of the best.

In another unique facet of DEF CON, all attendees pay cash at the door for the registration and there is no advance registration, with no names collected. That protects everyone from exposure on a list of those in attendance.

DEF CON also features contests, some involving computer skills. There are scavenger hunts, lock-picking challenges and the famous “Spot the Fed” contest. The other side of the coin is that a multitude of federal agency representatives attend this annual gathering including some of the best-skilled experts in cyber defense and investigations.

Everyone is in a learning mode, and they always go home with nuggets of knowledge. There are great opportunities for networking and learning in both federal organizations and hackers.

BSidesLV, a non-profit organization to advance information security knowledge, holds its annual, two-day, open forum the week before DEF CON. This year’s gathering of security engineers and affiliated personnel will be held July 25-26.

Later in the year, October 25-27 to be exact, DevLearn will hold its annual conference on creativity for training and learning professionals to help their organizations improve their technology skills. Last year, approximately 3,000 professionals had an opportunity to network with education and technology professionals.

Networking Opportunities Are Everywhere in Vegas

All of these conferences and conventions are opportunities to bump into someone interesting or even important. After the initial handshakes, it’s up to your networking skills to strike up conversations, perhaps by asking an interesting question or two.

Networking opportunities can occur anywhere in Las Vegas – on the famous Strip, in hallways, elevators, hospitality suites and convention show floors. But many believe the best networking location is on the buffet lines. Everyone needs to eat. Sometimes the lines are long and move slowly, so you have a captive audience.

Industry leaders attend these Las Vegas events to mentor and to give advice. But they also learn from the questions and ideas posed by the attendees. Networking is a two-way conversation and everyone benefits from it.

About the Author

James R. Lint recently retired as the (GG-15) civilian director for intelligence and security, G2, U.S. Army Communications Electronics Command. He is an adjunct professor at AMU. James has been involved in cyberespionage events from just after the turn of the century in Korea supporting 1st Signal Brigade to the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis as the first government cyber intelligence analyst. He has 38 years of experience in military intelligence with the U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Army, government contracting and civil service.

Additionally, James started the Lint Center for National Security Studies, a nonprofit charity that recently awarded its 43th scholarship for national security students and professionals. James was also elected as the 2015 national vice president for the Military Intelligence Corps Association. He has also served in the Department of Energy’s S&S Security Office after his active military career in the Marine Corps for seven years and also served 14 years in the Army. His military assignments include South Korea, Germany and Cuba, in addition to numerous CONUS locations. James has authored a book published in 2013, “Leadership and Management Lessons Learned,” and a new book in 2016 “8 Eyes on Korea, A Travel Perspective of Seoul, Korea

Susan Hoffman is a Managing Editor at APU Edge, whose articles have appeared in multiple publications. Susan is known for her expertise in blogging, social media, SEO, and content analytics, and she is also a book reviewer for Military History magazine. She has a B.A. cum laude in English from James Madison University and an undergraduate certificate in electronic commerce from American Public University.

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