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Know Before You Go: Your First RSAC

Security professionals from around the world come to RSA Conference for an intense week of learning, networking, and meetings. Check Out RSAC BookstoreThe expo floor is huge and this year, attendees can pick from more than 490 sessions. There are parallel initiatives, such as the various half-day seminars on Monday (April 20), the Innovation Sandbox contest (also Monday, April 20), hands-on demos in the Sandbox, and the Cyber-Safety Village, just to name a few. If this is your first RSA Conference, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Plan ahead, it's the only way.

We reached out to some show veterans for suggestions and recommendations on what first-time attendees should not miss. Check them out, and if you have other suggestions, definitely let us know.

If this is your first time to the conference, check out the orientation session held on-site Monday (April 20). “In order to survive this gauntlet, you need all of the intel you can collect in order to plan accordingly for the week,“ one attendee said. Subscribe to the email updates so you will know about room changes and other issues as they crop up. You can also download the mobile app for on-the-go scheduling and up-to-date alerts of changes to the program. 

When it comes to keynotes and sessions, some can’t miss ones include the opening day keynotes (on Tuesday, April 21), the Cryptographers' Panel (also on Tuesday), the opening reception for the Expo hall (on Monday evening), and Hugh Thompson’s keynote (Friday, April 24). The Monday sessions are invaluable, for both newcomers to the industry (check out the Tutorials) or to the Conference (pick a half-day seminar). Last year, Stephen Colbert gave the closing keynote. This year, actor Alec Baldwin will be on the stage (Friday, April 24). The final keynotes are generally a lot of fun.

The Cryptographers' Panel can give you a good sense of the state of cryptography. As one security professional put it, “Even if some of it is over your head, to see first-hand the luminaries who have crafted the mechanisms we use every day to protect our data is pretty cool.  It’s also an exercise in humility because you may be highly intelligent but you realize very quickly how exceptionally intelligent R,S,A,D,H, & M [Rivest, Shamir, Adleman, Diffie, Hellman, Merkle] are.”

Other not-to-miss items include the bookstore, the Expo floor, and the Codebreakers Bash on the final evening (Thursday, April 23). We had several people recommend joining Securosis and others at the RSA Conference Disaster Recovery Breakfast (Thursday, April 23). “A lot of luminaries in a relaxed atmosphere, where it’s small enough that you can actually find the person you want to talk with.”

As for the RSA Conference itself, remember that this isn’t just a learning conference, or an opportunity to shop new products and technologies. This is a networking event. “If you do not come away with at least 20 new connections you probably only participated in half of the conference (i.e. sessions) and failed to capitalize on the events in the evenings,” one veteran advised. “Our profession is heavily dependent upon relationships and there is no better place to create and foster those than RSAC.” 

And finally, as another veteran RSAC attendee reminded us, “You are in San Francisco, enjoy it.” Don’t make your trip only about the conference—explore the city. Go to City Lights bookstore and browse. Check out a tiki bar (Smuggler's Cove, The Tonga Room, Kona Club in Oakland, and Forbidden Island in Alameda, to name a few).

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

Posted on April 6, 2015

Fahmida Y. Rashid

by Fahmida Y. Rashid

RSA Conference

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