When thinking about the process for RSA Conference speaking proposals, I remembered School House Rock’s “I’m Just a Bill.” You know the one—“Bill,” a cute rolled-up piece of paper is sitting on the steps of Capitol Hill. He teaches the curious kid about the process, the waits, the analysis, and the debates that take place as part of his journey to becoming a law. For those “curious kids on the outside,” the process of submitting a session proposal to RSA Conference seems really long…for those responsible for selecting the sessions, the checks and balances along the way makes sense.
RSA Conference is first and foremost an educational event. Our goal and mission is to provide a forum “Where the World Talks Security.” We take the responsibility for providing quality, vetted educational content—and a means for people to interact—very seriously.
Here’s what the journey looks like:
So…why are submissions due so early (seven months!) and how can the sessions possibly stay current and topical given the long lead time? As shown above, we review a huge volume of potential candidates (more than 2,000 submissions are expected this year) and vet them against each other to construct a balanced, representative agenda. This process engages a large number of experts—our awesome volunteer Program Committee, a body of more than 40 global gurus—who reflect the diversity and interests of our attendees. Tracks are assembled to provide centralized points for conversation.
The level of complexity of each session is analyzed to create the appropriate mix for Conference attendees. The presentations also go through two rounds of reviews by the Program Committee, with the last review just a few weeks before Conference to ensure the presenter has timely content. It’s a careful system of checks and balances to make sure that our attendees get quality, vetted educational content.
What you don’t see in this timeline is the last step of a good RSA Conference session—solid presentation skills. RSA Conference invests in speaker coaches for all our first-time presenters (about 33% of our speakers at our 2014 conference) as well as for presenters who want some assistance. The “Rock Star” speakers also have another level of speaker training to further hone and develop skills. By the time the speakers hit the RSA Conference stage, they are well prepared and confident. Last year we had more than 600 presenters at RSA Conference across the tutorials, Peer2Peer sessions, keynotes and regular track sessions, and we strove to give each of these presenters the feedback and skill development opportunities they needed to deliver solid content.
By the time you see me in April at RSA Conference, I will have set our timeline and process to a wonderfully catchy School House Rock tune (but William Shatner will not be singing it!). Until then, hopefully the journey makes some sense. We’d love to have you join us on this journey from becoming a session submitter to becoming a session presenter.