There is no right or wrong way to approach RSA Conference. Everyone has a different approach when it comes to figuring out what sessions to view, which meetings to schedule, and which events to attend. Approach RSA Conference with specific questions in mind and plan who you will talk to in order to get the answers. Think about how you will follow-up for more information and when you will connect with peers and experts.
Do you know the story about rocks and pebbles in a jar? There are many variations, but the basic gist goes something like this:
A teacher places as many rocks as he can inside a glass jar and asks the students if the jar is full. Yes, they reply. The teacher adds in pebbles, which fill the space around the rocks. Is the jar full? Yes, the students reply. The teacher then adds sands, which fills up the tiny gaps. Is the jar full? Yes, the students reply again. The teacher pours water into the jar, which soaks into the sand. Now, he says—the jar is full.
Approach RSA Conference in a similar way, and you will maximize the experience. Some people walk every inch of the expo floor first, and then set up meetings. Others set up client and/or vendor meetings first, and then visit the expo floor. And some people schedule a quick visit to the expo floor to skim the offerings and get a sense of the industry trends are. That way, even if they wind up not being able to do any in-depth meetings or visits to a particular booth, they still have a general overview.
Check out some different strategies that have worked for security professionals in the past:
Wait till you are on-site: “Wait till I get 500 lb. program guide and pick sessions Monday afternoon. Go to Expo floor layout and circle the booths that are must-see.”
Use the tools: Use the website to research sessions, topics, and speakers. You have a choice of traditional instructor-led classes, hands-on seminars, facilitated peer-to-peer sessions, in-depth interactive Learning Labs, informative keynotes, fast-paced studio presentations, and speaker interviews. Filter through the list on the Sessions & Events portion of the website by day, content/activity type, company names, and keywords. Track which after-hours events you register for. Use the mobile app to help with on-the-go scheduling as well as to keep up with the most current information. Use the My Schedule tool to keep track of your plans.
Plan everything: This is the person who carefully plans out meetings, breaks, and all the can’t-miss sessions. The plan includes evenings and off-site events, as well as time spent with friends and colleagues. “Otherwise we would never run into one another by chance. We’re all going eighty miles a minute in different directions during RSAC.”
If you know you will be doing more meetings than sessions, block off sessions you just don’t want to miss on your calendar first, and then schedule meetings around it. Perhaps you have favorite speakers, or maybe there are talks of particular interest. Get those on the calendar, first. “Review the agenda in detail. Select what I want to attend. Then revisit in a week later after my mind had a chance to clear.”
“I try to get briefings and demos handled before the conference, and focus on deeper discussions at the event.”
What Sessions Should You Attend?
When it comes to sessions, everyone has a different “top five” list. Art Coviello's opening keynote has always been a must-do. With his retirement earlier this year, all eyes will be on Amit Yoran as he makes his debut on the RSAC stage Tuesday (April 21). Don’t miss the talks by special guests, even if they are non-security people. Some of the best—entertaining and/or informative—talks in past years have been by these speakers.
Some past attendees specifically highlighted sessions in the CISO, strategy, identity, hackers & threats, and breaking research tracks. “Identity has an outsized role in both security and privacy topics, more with every passing year.” Presentations on PCI from a member of the PCI Council are popular, as well.
If the session promises a live demonstration, that’s worth checking out. “If it is a live demo of hacking something, I will be in the front row well ahead of time.”
And finally, a few other tips to keep in mind:
- Establish your goals ahead of time.
- Target specific exhibitors early in the week to arrange to meet the people you actually want to meet.
- Don’t wait till the end of the sessions to use the kiosk shared computers at Moscone. That’s when the lines are the worst.
- Check out the Securosis Guide to RSA Conference (RSAC-G) for some no-holds-barred insights into what to expect from the show floor.
- Newer companies have the worst booth locations – if you’re interested in the new players– walk around the edges of the show floor.
- Remember that keynotes are recorded. If you can’t attend a keynote, you can still view it later online. Check out RSAC TV for other sessions with speakers. Download presentations from the website.
- Coordinate with co-workers to figure out who has which meeting.
“Success navigating the gauntlet at RSA is 85% proper planning, 10% flawless execution and 5% blind luck,” one attendee said. What is your method for taming the RSA Conference schedule? Let us know.