Your RSA Conference 2018 Survival Guide: Plan Ahead and Stay Hydrated

Are you planning to attend the 2018 RSA Conference in San Francisco next week? If you’re like me, you started preparing back in the fall. If you’re like my marketing department, you’ve been thinking about this year’s event since last February, if not longer. And if you’re like I used to be, you might be thinking to yourself, “Oh, right — I need to get a hotel room.” If that’s the case, I can only wish you luck. You’ll need it.

Plan Ahead and Arrive Early

I’ve had many roles in the nearly two decades I’ve been attending RSAC, and I’d like to share a bit of that hard-earned experience to help you make the most of your time at the conference. Almost all of my advice boils down to two points:

  1. Plan in advance to fit as much as possible into the four days of the conference.
  2. Work downtime into your schedule, or you’ll burn out long before the event is over.

I’ve spent the majority of my years at the conference as a member of the press. In fact, I was one of the first three podcasters given press credentials many years ago. While scheduling interviews isn’t the same as planning which talks and events to attend, there are direct parallels. You should review the conference schedule and make a basic list of presentations you are interested in — or at least identify which talks your boss expects you to see to justify your attendance. Don’t wait until you pick up a schedule at the show to plan.

You can reduce some of the stress of the first day by making a crib sheet of the sessions. It’s not uncommon for two talks you want to see to overlap, so it’s good to have a friend who can attend one in your place and fill you in later. The RSA Conference covers many topics, and it can be hard to get from the talk you’re in to the one you want to see next, especially if you have to figure out where it is located. Many attendees will be a little confused about where the rooms are on Monday night and Tuesday morning, so it’s a good idea to build in extra time between sessions.

Speaking of extra time, it’s very likely that the talk at the top of your list is near the top of everyone else’s list as well. Arrive early, get in line and use the extra time to drink some water and socialize. Be sure to include time for those chance hallway discussions with former co-workers and acquaintances you haven’t seen in a few years. As an attendee, I’ve always valued the time I get to spend socializing with my peers and meeting new people. I wouldn’t be where I am in my career without many of the contacts I’ve made at conferences.

Speaker Etiquette

If you’re attending RSAC as a speaker, please do the organizers a favor and check in early and often. I’ve either spoken or been on panels at least half a dozen times over the years at this conference, and I can tell you how much the organizers appreciate speakers who let them know they’re in attendance and ready to present. Plan some time after your talk to meet with the audience and explain the points you made during your presentation. I always found it rewarding to hear what people cued in on during my talks.

Come For the Booth Loot, Stay for the Security Insights

This year, I’m attending the RSA Conference with only one hat to wear: vendor. I’m supporting my company by meeting with customers and press as well as supporting the booth in the main hall.

Vendors play a huge role in the RSAC experience. It’s OK to walk away from a vendor with a smile and a nod, but it’s even better if you can walk into a vendor’s booth knowing what you or your boss wants to get out of the conversation. You might be surprised by how much expertise many of the people on booth duty have in their respective fields — not to mention all the booth loot.

Getting the Most Out of the RSA Conference

The RSA Conference is, hands down, the biggest security-related event of the year. For security professionals who are passionate about the latest developments in the field, such as augmented intelligence (AI), orchestration, cryptography and more, the Moscone Center in San Francisco is definitely the place to be between April 16 and 20.

It’s a long time to be in a high-energy environment, and even an extrovert like me will be exhausted by the end of the week. But you can make the most of the excitement by planning ahead, drinking lots of water, and taking time out between events to relax and collect your thoughts. See you in San Francisco!

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Martin McKeay

Security Advocate

Martin McKeay is a Senior Security Advocate at Akamai, joining the company in 2011. As a member of Akamai's Security Intelligence Team, he is responsible for researching security threats, customer education and industry intelligence. With over fifteen years of experience in the security space and five years of direct Payment Card Industry work, Martin has provided expertise to hundreds of companies. He is also the author of the Network Security Blog and host of the Network Security Podcast.