RSA Conference week can be overwhelming from a scheduling standpoint. Between conference sessions, vendor meetings and unlimited networking opportunities, a CISO’s time is in short supply and high demand.
Below, seasoned CISOs share their personal best practices for managing time, maximizing value and making the most of the RSA Conference experience.
For more in-depth insight, read “A CISO’s Guide to RSA Conference 2016” by MIAX Options CSO John Masserini.
Principal Financial CISO
I’ve had pretty good luck with vendor discussions by being frank about my intentions and relevance of their products or services to my organization. If I can’t buy due to investment priorities or the product is simply not relevant to my organization or priorities, they want to hear that.
If I am intrigued, I make sure to get follow up information as well as set expectations clearly. It’s more efficient for everyone to go back to the office with discussions that result in a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ than it is to hedge.
Avoid a rigid schedule so you can participate in spontaneous activities or delve deeper into a topic based something new that catches your interest. One year I was invited to tour Twitter, which was an unplanned and engaging opportunity.
I also suggest providing trip notes upon your return to key stakeholders. People like to know what everyone else is doing and also hear about emerging and innovative solutions. This also provides value in terms of demonstrating the worth of your attendance.
GE Capital CISO
Make a specific plan and stick to the plan. RSA is overwhelming, so for me, I make a list of objectives addressing what I want to accomplish while I¹m there: meet with specific vendors, network with known peers, meet new people, look for a new job, gather training CPE¹s, attend parties, etc… Then I plan the schedule in detail into my calendar.
Breakfast meetings are a great opportunity to meet with peers without getting in the way of major conference events, and afternoon coffee meetings also work well. I also still distribute and gather business cards with as many people as possible – after the event I weed through them, add a few to my direct contacts, then connect with everyone else on LinkedIn.
I tend to focus on meeting with known peers, seeking out new, like peers, and looking at leading edge technologies, since this event typically draws them all, and they tend to send the top technologists and leaders to pitch the wares.
IBM Cloud & SaaS VP & CISO
We all know there is a lot going on at the RSA Conference every year. My suggestions for maximizing your time include attending some smaller scale events that allow you the opportunity to network with your peers.
Building a trusted network to share ideas is important and will have tremendous benefits later. In addition to attending the general conference sessions, make time to visit the innovation area so you can see new approaches to challenges we all face.
This is the first time I am attending RSA from a distance and I have learned that planning in advance is extremely important. Previously, I lived near the Bay Area so it was easy to meet face-to-face with my strategic partners any time throughout the year. But now that I am half-way across the country, we don’t meet as often. This year I experienced vendors calling about 6 weeks before the conference, wanting my time with their executive leader, or inviting me to a dinner, etc…
Those I am interested in meeting, I started accepting their invites. However, I discovered time-slots needed for meeting with my business partners were already committed to the new vendors. So the lesson learned: block out time with your strategic partners earlier so that meetings with new vendors doesn’t crowd your time.
FLEETCOR SVP & CISO
The following advice will enable you to maximize your time during the RSA Conference week:
- Spend time reviewing the track offerings and preselect what you plan to attend
- Coordinate with others from your company that are also attending so you can cover more sessions and then share content information later
- Arrive considerably early for popular sessions/events to ensure that you get in and have good seating
- Collect information about the side events being held in conjunction with the conference. You can later review these to select the events that are the most valuable for you
- Take advantage of the chance to meet with strategic industry leaders/vendors
- Make an effort to attend networking events that connect you with peers
- Bring many more business cards than you think you will need
RSA is my annual pilgrimage to learn about new products and approaches. I make the most of my time by bookending each day with networking meetings then spend a lot of time walking the vendor floor and attending interesting speaking sessions. Makes for a great event each year.