• United States




A guide to the RSA 2016 conference

Feb 18, 20163 mins
Cloud ComputingEventsIT Leadership

Going to RSA 2016? Failing to plan is planning to fail.

Credit: Thinkstock

I did an Amazon search for “Disney guide books 2016” and got 141 (not perfect) hits. Those that want to make the most of their overpriced trip to the Magic Kingdom know it takes a good amount of pre-planning.

While the RSA Conference is no Disney, meaning you don’t pay $16 for a beer; making the most of RSA does take planning.

[ MORE ON RSA: RSA Conference registration page collecting Twitter credentials ]

I’ve been going to RSA for over a decade and with the conference a little more than a week away, here are a few tips you may want to consider.

Create a schedule – RSA has a complete online schedule of all of sessions here, where you can create a personalized schedule. Similar functionality is also available on the conference mobile app. The choices can be overwhelming as there may be multiple concurrent interesting sessions.

RSA makes it eminently clear that adding a session to your schedule does not guarantee you a seat. The reason being admission to sessions are on a first come, first served basis. Nonetheless, planning your schedule, and creating backup sessions in advance will ensure you make most of the educational sessions.

Know which vendors you want to meet – The vendor exhibitor list has 546 firms who will be on the expo floor. It’s actually 547, but I doubt Norse will really be there.

Walking into the north and south expo halls is the information security equivalent of walking into the Mall of America. If you know what you want in advance, you’ll come out much ahead. If not, you’ll be overwhelmed by the crowds, noise and vendors begging for your attention (and business card).

If you didn’t do advance planning, plan B is to do a quick walk through all of the expo floor aisles. Make note of which vendors look interesting. Once you have your list, go back and spend time with each vendor.

Wear comfortable shoes – you will do a lot of walking at RSA. With events in the south, north and west Moscone Center buildings, combined with the long expo floor aisles, you don’t need a podiatrist to tell you comfortable shoes are a must.

Chat with an infosec legend – there are many information security legends at the show. They are approachable and often happy to share quick advice. Be it Adi Shamir, Bruce Schenier, Whit Diffie, Ronald Rivest, Marty Roesch and many more. RSA may be a huge show, but you can also pick the brain of and meet some of the best minds in the security business.

If you would rather chat with a legend over extremely loud music in a crowded club, the many RSA parties will afford such opportunities. Dave Lewis was kind enough to create a RSA parties 2016 list.

Don’t use the 2016 conference bag – RSA gives out great bags, often high quality backpacks. Since thousands of people will be using the identical 2016 conference bags, often without nametags, many of them get switched, and lost forever from their rightful owners. If you don’t want to be a victim of a RSA conference bag switch, bring a different backpack.

As for me, I’ll be at the conference leading a P2P session on Security of Public Cloud Services: It Takes a Village, and moderating the Habits of an Effective CISO panel, with Jack Jones, Phil Agcaoili and Roland Cloutier. Of course, with my schedule, old backpack, comfortable shoes, while chatting with Marty Hellman.


Ben Rothke, CISSP, CISM, CISA is a Senior Information Security Manager at Tapad has over 20 years of industry experience in information systems security and privacy. He’s the co-author of the recently published book - The Definitive Guide to PCI DSS Version 4: Documentation, Compliance, and Management.