Last month, I helped organize a security conference in Toronto called BsidesTO. I’ve attended and volunteered at my fair share of conferences, but this is the first time I’ve had an integral role in throwing and event of this scale.
One day, two floors, 14 speakers, and over 150 attendees. It was a blast. An exhausting blast.
Bsides. is a brand for security conferences around the world.
What is BSides? Each BSides is a community-driven framework for building events for and by information security community members. The goal is to expand the spectrum of conversation beyond the traditional confines of space and time. It creates opportunities for individuals to both present and participate in an intimate atmosphere that encourages collaboration. It is an intense event with discussions, demos, and interaction from participants. It is where conversations for the next-big-thing are happening.
The Toronto security community had long wanted a Bsides of its own to compliment the larger SecTor conference. 2013 was the first year that things came together and a successful Bsides in Toronto was launched.
If you build it they will come
Conferences without speakers are just parties. Which isn’t a bad thing, but we’re throwing a conference damnit! To be a conference, someone has to talk.
At first, getting enough speakers concerned me the most. Having spoken at conferences before, I know how harrowing it can be to put yourself out there in front of a crowd. Because we were starting a brand new event, I was constantly anxious that no one would want to speak, thus forcing me to spend 6 hours performing magic tricks to entertain the attendees.
This worry was entirely unfounded. I had no idea how many smart talented people are willing to show up to a hitherto unknown event with their research and perspectives.
We had an amazing group of speakers show up, and I’m proud of all of them for making the conference the success that it was.
The other kind of speakers matter too
No matter how much you plan ahead, something will go wrong.
We ran the conference on two floors of the Monarch Tavern. We piped audio and video from the talks to televisions upstairs, so people could have a lounge like atmosphere while they watched the talks.
I still think the model was solid. The “Hallway Track” is always a great experience at conferences. We wanted to create an atmosphere where you could converse with your friends while still paying attention to talks and not bothering other attendees.
There were some issues with the audio quality upstairs, and my main lesson learned for next year is to improve the A/V experience as much as possible.
Sleep is important. BsidesTO happened to be on the night of Nuit Blanche. If you went out that night, I’m impressed. I for one went home and slept for 36 hours.
Organizing BSidesTO was one of the best experiences I’ve had in 2013, and I hope you had a good time at the conference as well. My eternal thanks to everyone else involved: Jamie, Dave, Ben, Phill, Laura, and the staff of The Monarch.