How to survive the RSA and BSides Deconfalon

With the RSA Security Conference and Security BSides San Francisco only a week away I thought I’d offer some advice to first time attendees:

  1. There are parties every night of the week so it would be a good idea to pace yourself. You need to treat the week like an Olympic event – something I will call the ‘Deconfalon’. Not only are you going to be sitting through talks and networking all day but you’ll also likely be attending parties until all hours of the night (or morning). This type of activity takes a toll on your body and mental health. The last thing you want to do is party too hard on the first night and ruin the next two as a result (I’ve done it, it sucks). There’s no rule that says you have to close the bar or go out for pancakes at 4am. Some people like doing this but I’m no longer one of them as I’m not 19 anymore. Party at your own pace and party responsibly. You’ll enjoy your week more.
  2. Water is your best friend.If you’re hell bent on power drinking at after hours Deconfalon events, try having a glass of water after every alcoholic drink. Sure, you’ll have to run to the bathroom a lot but you’ll likely fend off dehydration and a brutal hangover the next morning. Also, just because the booze is free, doesn’t mean that you have to drink out the bar.
  3. Eat, pray, love. Well, at least eat. One of the biggest mistakes I usually make during the Deconfalon is to forget to eat. Sure, if you’re press or a speaker there is food provided in the press or speaker room, but with the number of meetings, appointments and talks who really has time? My best advice is to pack some snacks that will fit in your pocket for eating on the run during the conference. Also, make a point of eating as many proper meals as you can. Grab someone and invite them out for a quick bite before heading to the next party or find another person who looks as weary as you and go out for lunch together. Remember, man was not designed to live on appetizers alone.
  4. Take some ‘me’ time. Sometimes you just need some time to decompress. Don’t worry what your friends or colleagues might think about you skipping out on a night of parties in favor of a quiet night in. Stressed out during the day? Why not hit a local coffee shop or go for a walk? No one is going to fault you for wanting some personal time. You don’t always have to be ‘on’ at these things.
  5. Fake it until you make it. Don’t know anyone at the conferences? Shy? Maybe you’re an introvert? Maybe you know some people through social media like Twitter but are afraid to approach them in real life? One of the worst things you could do at events like these is to sit in the corner in your own little world. Be fun, outgoing and friendly. Smile (but don’t be a grin fucker), practice active listening and, if you see someone standing out on the fringes of the conversation, invite them to join in. You might make a friend for life.
  6. Have fun. Look, if you’re not having fun, it’s time to find something else to do. Don’t stick around in a dull conversation or at a party if you’re bored or disinterested. Go find someone else to talk to or find something else to do (like sleep). Similarly, not every conversation has to be about security. A lot of people make the mistake of only talking about work or the practice of security. I assure you, by midweek, this gets very boring. Strike up a conversation about a recent vacation, a new technology purchase or even a new exercise regiment. Show people you’re more than just another security wonk.

Hopefully this helps. See you next week.

  • http://net-security.org Mirko Zorz

    Excellent advice! Despite all the chaos and the intense schedule, I can't but look forward to RSA Conference week every year :)

  • http://www.secsocial.com/blog Erin 'SecBarbie' J

    Two things that you forgot…

    2a. If you are going to drink your night away. Start your day out by putting a big bottle of water (or Vitamin Water Revive) and a piece of bread (or some carb/protein bar) by your bed with aspirin (I prefer Motrin).

    5a. If you don't know anyone…. Start your week out at the Security Sociability Happy Hour where TONS of your new Twitter friends will be gathering, and everyone is ubber nice! :)

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  • http://www.securityinnovation.com/ Maureen R

    That’s some witty advice for RSA first timers!

    What are your opinions after this year’s event? What discussions gained your attention?

    Participants at this conference from my company shared opinions on what they noticed to be a difficult thought on everyone’s mind, namely mobile software security as BYOD: http://blog.securityinnovation.com/blog/2012/02/b….
    Any thoughts on this?