Know Before You Go: Prepping for RSAC 2015

Posted on by Fahmida Y. Rashid

Each year, RSA Conference brings together security professionals from around the world for an intense week of learning and networking. Plan your RSACOver 700 speakers are participating in more than 490 presentations and discussions during the week. The Expo Halls are jam-packed with security companies showing off their products. Learn about companies taking innovative approaches to solve serious security problems at the Innovation Sandbox contest (Monday, April 20), and swing by the hands-on demos in the Sandbox. Take the time to look through the Program Guide and pick a Peer-to-Peer session covering a topic you are interested in. Get to the room early. 

Several veteran RSA Conference attendees shared with us some of the lessons they’ve learned based on years’ experience of attending. Check out some of their answers to the question, “What do you know now about the Conference that you wish you’d known before?”  If you have more that you think should be on this list, let us know.

Dress for Comfort, Pack for Convenience: One veteran attendee didn’t hesitate with her answer: “How much walking there is. How very, very much walking there is. And standing around. And walking some more. I bring at least two pairs of shoes to the conference, and I try to maximize the amount of time I can stay seated in one place. I also build a lot of breaks into my schedule so that I can just sit and make notes and get my head together.”

Wear comfortable shoes. Sessions and events are spread out between Moscone North, South, and West. “This is not the time for fashion statements—be prepared to walk many miles per day.”

Along with comfortable shoes (or two!) pack a battery phone charger. You don’t want to be fighting with the thousands of other attendees over wall outlets to charge your phone during the day. And don’t dismiss the power of business cards—don’t leave your hotel without some in your pocket. You may want to consider carrying personal contact cards along with business cards. 

Plan Ahead: It will be difficult to meet everyone on your list while at RSAC because the week gets crazy, fast. With few exceptions, most important out-of-town executives will be gone by Thursday morning. Try to schedule your meetings with top executives earlier in the week so that you don’t miss them. Figure out what sessions you are interested in and schedule them on your calendar right away so that you know what time periods are free for meetings. The Codebreaker’s Bash (Thursday, April 23) can be a good place to network if you know who you are looking for.

Always Have a Backup Plan: “Pace yourself, RSA is a marathon not a sprint. Plan your schedule and have a backup plan for sessions as some fill up quickly.  You need to go into the week having a plan to maximize your time there or you will be overwhelmed with the sheer volume of content and experiences available to attendees.” For every presentation you want to see, always select a backup in case things change. 

Take Care of Yourself: Keep the distance in mind when scheduling meetings. Build in time to get from one meeting to another, especially if you have meetings outside Moscone and in surrounding hotels. Otherwise, you will find yourself sprinting and still running behind the entire week. If you are tempted to pack your schedule tightly, “make sure you can physically handle it,” said a veteran who regularly runs triathlons, noting that by the end of the week, he is wiped out. Block out time on your calendar to sleep. Skip some after-hours events earlier in the week to conserve your strength. Build in time to get food. Make appointments to meet people, even friends, and keep them. Schedule when you will visit the Expo floor.

Grabbing lunch between 11:30 and 1:30 will never be a quick affair because everyone is trying to do the same thing. Plan accordingly. Mel’s Drive-In on Mission, steps away from Moscone, is an “underutilized restaurant” that’s a great place to meet people for coffee meetings, said one RSAC veteran. There is also a Peet’s Coffee a block from Moscone. “You and Peet’s will be close friends by Wednesday.”

Be Smart About the Expo Floor: “As painful as it may be, you need to review the exhibit descriptions and target key companies and/or products to check out on the floor,” one attendee told us. Get ahold of the Expo floor layout (available in the program guide, and the floor plans on the event website)  so you know where to go. The days of being able to just go up and down each aisle are long gone. Circle companies and products in the program guide which are “musts” for your organization , and visit those earlier in the week while you are still feeling fresh. And when you stop by a booth, ask for a sales engineer so that you can get all your questions answered. 

Don’t try to do it all in one day. Take a couple hours split across different days to walk the show floor. One veteran recommends, “Skip all the swag companies give out.”

Do you agree? What other tips do you have for the conference? Let us know.

Fahmida Y. Rashid

Information Security Journalist, Editor-in-Chief, RSA Conference

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