Mark Davison at IBM PartnerWorld, Las Vegas – There I was, ambling towards my next appointment at this year’s PartnerWorld inside the MGM’s Grand Garden Arena, when my progress was abruptly halted by a couple of uniformed security guards.

“Please stand back, sir,” said the obvious chief – he had a different uniform and more badges on his breast than the others – as he ordered the others to close the entrance doors in some kind of emergency lockdown. I took a couple of steps backwards. Unlike in good old South Africa, you don’t mess with anyone in a uniform in the US of A. Not policemen, not customs officers, not even security guards.

It was then that I noticed a lanky teenager standing between a couple of other security personnel. Tears streamed down his face and his chest heaved with sobs as he mumbled something along the lines of “wanting his Dad.”

“What’s going on? Is he okay?” I asked The Chief. His look dismissed me as he supervised the closing of the doors. I sidled up to one of the other security guys and, making sure his boss didn’t notice, he whispered that the youngster was suspected of trying to start a fire in the arena. An hour before, around 2 500 of us had been in there listening to the opening keynotes of PartnerWorld. Now I was back for what IBM had described on my agenda as a “Fireside Chat” with John Teltsch, GM of Global Business Partners at IBM and Mark Wyllie, CEO of True Blue partner Flagship Solutions Group. Pretty ironic, I thought.

Still sobbing, the youngster was led away towards one of the hotel’s main exits, presumably to meet up with real policemen. As he was about to close the final door to the arena, I asked The Chief if I could squeeze through for my appointment. “We’re going to be locked down for about an hour,” he replied. His junior then pointed out to him that I was a member of the Press. He eyed my Press badge and grudgingly let me through. I don’t think he likes the Press very much.

In the breakout room for the “Fireside Chat” some of the other assembled hacks had obviously heard about the amateur arsonist. “It would make a great headline: PartnerWorld on Fire!” laughed one.

It would, indeed, I mused, wondering if he would file a story about it.