RSA Conference Guide for Newbies

April 17, 2024 | By Larry Whiteside Jr.
RSA Conference 2024 Guide for Newbies

Attending the RSA Conference can be an exhilarating yet overwhelming experience, no matter if you are entering the cybersecurity field or are well-established in the industry. This event caters to everyone from executives to security analysts, offering a plethora of activities, panels, and networking opportunities.

As a longtime CISO and veteran attendee and speaker of RSA over the years, I thought I’d share some of my advice for getting the most out of your trip to what is really the ultimate cybersecurity conference—especially if this is your first time going. You’re in for a treat.

Before you go

Dressing for versatility & comfort

If you know me, then you know why this is the thing I address first. When preparing for RSA, the first consideration should always be your attire. Knowing the significant amount of walking involved, prioritize comfortable footwear to avoid the discomfort that can ruin your day. Your wardrobe should be comfortable and suitable for the varied activities you’ll attend. Executives might require blazers for formal meetings, while those attending more casual social events might opt for relaxed clothing. Ensure your packing list reflects the nature of the events you plan to attend, balancing professionalism with comfort. 

Also bear in mind that, although San Francisco is in California, it has a maritime climate that can make it very “un-Californialike”. Evening fog and strong breezes can cause the temperatures to vary up to 10-15 degrees Fahrenheit, even between neighborhoods and throughout the day. Layers are a smart idea, like carrying a sweatshirt, hoody, or sweater. These can also be handy in case of over-airconditioned meeting spaces, too. 

Getting around

Of course, if you’re reading this within six months of the conference you’ve probably already selected where you want to stay. Whether you’re staying close to the action or a bit further away, each choice has its benefits, from increased networking opportunities to quieter downtime away from the crowd.  

Remember to plan your daily commute to and from the conference to maximize your time effectively—especially since busy conference days can cause major delays with rideshare pickups. For any local information while onsite at Moscone, please visit the San Francisco Visitor Information Center (VIC). They are located inside the far-right doors at Moscone South and will be open Conference week, Saturday – Thursday 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM. 

Plan your schedule ahead of time — then plan for it to change 

Once you register for the RSA conference, you will begin receiving emails about events. Your best bet is to register for everything. Sometimes events reach capacity quickly or turn out to be less than you expected. Having options matters. As you network at the event, you will likely get gathered into a larger group of new friends and migrate from one thing to another together. Being pre-registered makes this spontaneity much more possible.  
Follow RSA Conference on LinkedIn, Facebook, X, and other social media platforms and search for terms like “RSA 2024” or “RSA Parties” and hashtags like #RSAC2024 and #RSACParty. You’ll then to find links to many events and parties. Get them on your calendar ahead of time. 

For example, RegScale can offer you an invitation to dine with us at one of three executive-hosted dinners at amazing San Francisco restaurants, Tuesday, May 7. We are also cohosting a private afterparty with Cranium and Synqy, Wednesday, May 8, from 7:30 pm to 10:30 pm PDT. (Ask us for details about these dinners and the party here and indicate your interest.

As for the show itself, find the sessions you are interested in and get them on your calendar as well. Then you can figure out what time you will navigate the show floor, even if it is only a few minutes between other things. I invite you to swing by our booth #4311 at the Moscone Center North Expo, and to visit us at Microsoft Security booth #6044, where you’ll see how RegScale works so well with Microsoft Azure. 
Be strategic in your planning. Don’t make the mistake I’ve done before and schedule things distanced so far from each other that you can’t make anything in a timely manner, thus causing you to make it to nothing due to sheer exhaustion and fatigue. 

At the event

It’s showtime!

The RSA Conference itself is really broken down into two things:  

Keynotes, Talks, and Panels: These sessions from practitioners from across the globe provide valuable insights into the latest trends and challenges in cybersecurity. They are an excellent opportunity to learn from leading experts and can be crucial for professional development and networking. These sessions can enable you to build relationships and connect with really smart people across the cybersecurity industry who can help you on your career journeys—and many other things that we as practitioners need to be better at each day. 

Exhibition Floor: This place can be overwhelming and confusing due to its size, which is similar to that of a small country. However, it is a bustling marketplace that showcases the latest cybersecurity solutions and innovations. I highly recommend that even if you’re not looking to purchase, take a stroll to understand the scope and scale of the industry. 

Meet and greets

Networking is a cornerstone of the RSA Conference. It’s an excellent chance to meet industry leaders and peers and connect with old friends. It is one of the few opportunities that one will get to personally meet some of the industry luminaries who have helped shape the industry over the last 40+ years.  

This being the case, there are many common spots where people congregate outside of the Moscone Center to connect with each other. Utilize LinkedIn as a mechanism to reach out to people and identify where they are going to have meet and greets to connect. Some popular locations that I personally know are the W Hotel, St Regis Hotel, Marriot Marquis, Four Seasons, the Palace, and the Intercontinental Hotel, just to name a few. But honestly, anything within 1/2 mile walking distance from the Moscone tends to be a place where you will run into tons of people with whom you can network.  
See the link above, in the section about planning your schedule ahead of time, to indicate your interest in one of several dinners and an afterparty RegScale is co-hosting. 

Approach networking with openness and curiosity—it’s amazing what you can learn from new connections. If you see someone who looks interesting, don’t be afraid to introduce yourself. Though everyone is busy and moving about, networking at this event is the name of the game. As you network more, you will naturally begin getting accepted into new groups of people and possibly moving along with them from one event to another. 

General tips for new RSAC attendees

Expect to be overwhelmed

With more than 40 thousand registrants this year and countless sessions, the RSA Conference can feel chaotic. Embrace the unexpected and remain adaptable. Be prepared for schedule changes and logistical hiccups, and don’t let them derail your experience. 

Swag, swag, and more swag

Swag is often considered the unofficial currency of conferences, with a variety of unique trinkets available for the taking. Personally, I’ve often collected these items for my children, but as they’ve grown less interested, I’ve found that these trinkets make great additions to our Sunday School giveaway bags. 

Rest and health

The long days can be physically taxing. Prioritize rest, stay hydrated, and take breaks as needed. There is often a lot of alcohol consumption at RSA, so whether you partake or not, stay safe and be mindful. Make sure to hydrate regularly. 

Stay focused on your goals

It’s easy to get sidetracked by the array of activities and displays. Keep your objectives in mind and allocate your time accordingly. The RSA Conference offers a wealth of resources and opportunities—make sure to utilize them in alignment with your professional goals. You are there for a reason. Stay focused on that reason and make the most out of your investment.  

RSAC is like a buffet. There are many options, and if you’re not careful, you’ll walk away feeling stuffed, bloated, and regretful (I got this line from Anthony Viera and it’s the BEST analogy ever). But with some focus and strategy, you can leave feeling satisfied, energized, and ready to conquer the world. 

By planning effectively and engaging actively, you can ensure that your time at the RSA Conference is not only enjoyable but also immensely beneficial for your career and professional development. Whether you’re there to learn, network, or both, focus on making the most of this unique opportunity. 
Hope to see you at RSAC! Please introduce yourself, and as mentioned above, indicate your interest in one of RegScale’s exclusive dinners or the afterparty.

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