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OrganizeALocalBSides


Quick Start Guide

 

So, you've decided to run a BSides event. Great! Now what?

 

This guide will try to provide you with a quick leg-up on getting organized and underway as quickly as possible with as little pain as possible. The planning stages can be very trying and stressful, but the payoff is a successful event that gets people excited about "the next one."

 

 

Due to overwhelming demand for events we ask that prospective organizers contact us before beginning planning an event, we need to make sure the resources you need are available, and that the proposed event makes sense as a BSides. 

 

Please send an email to [email protected] if you would like to organize a Security BSides event.  Resources are available to help you make the event a success.

 

 

First Steps

 

  1. Loop Us In! Drop a quick note to info (at) securitybsides dot org. By engaging the core team, you can get support from our experienced event hosts and receive promotional support as your event planning moves forward. 
  2. When & Where? Your event planning starts with picking a date and a place. It may take some time to iron things out. Start by picking a preferred day or two for your event as that will help you in looking at venue availability. 
    1. Check out the current list of events on the BSides FrontPage. Try to be respectful of other BSides events that are scheduled around the same time. Planning a BSides during a major conference? Please check with the core team to see if an event is already planned.
    2. Need help? Just ask!
    3. Consider weekends vs week days. If your event is during another major conference, then week days are generally ok. However, if you're looking for people to attend on their own time, then weekends are often best. Oh, and generally avoid holidays.
    4. Be considerate of hours. Rarely is a pre-9am start ok, with 10am - 5pm or 6pm a fairly common and generally accepted range.
    5. One day or two? For smaller, regional events one day is probably best for a first run. If this is a follow-up event to a previous BSides, then you may want to consider expanding the schedule to allow for more attendees and more participation. BSidesLasVegas provides an excellent example of how the format can expand out (and they started with 2 days!).
    6. Consider an evening social activity. The "Hackers on a Duck" activity for BSidesAustin was a lot of fun and a big hit. Don't assume that you need sponsorship for this "extra," though it can also be a good one to associate a sponsor with a "cool" activity.
    7. Start thinking about numbers. How much do you think you can raise in sponsorship? How many people do you think will attend? For example, if you're confident in an estimate of 50 attendees, then plan for 65 or more just to be safe. The format will also impact your numbers. Also, starting thinking about beverages, meals, and snacks. BSides events try hard to run for free, so we strongly recommend starting with a minimum spec (facility + AV + minimum services) and then adding pieces as sponsors come onboard or volunteer to cover expenses.
    8. "Where" should be reasonably convenient, as costs allow. Consider transportation, parking, etc. Part of making your event successful is making it accessible. Hosting it in your Mom's basement for 75 people is probably not going to be overly feasible, unless the basement is very large and parking or shuttle from parking is provided.
    9. Go look at the venue in-person if possible. If you're not able to make an in-person review, then ask locals for recommendations and enlist volunteers to help make sure you're not picking a dangerous or otherwise undesirable location.
  3. What Format? There are three general formats: Structured, Unconference, and Hybrid. Check out the WhatToExpect page for a description of each kind. Consider the type of environment and culture you want to foster within your event. There are pros and cons to each event type.
    1. Structured: This format is like a traditional conference. Your administrative overhead is increased ahead of time as you need to solicit speakers and topics, then find a reasonably transparent method for choosing and scheduling talks. Attendees tend to be most at ease with this format because it's familiar. However, be careful with this format. If it becomes too lecture-ish, then participation can drop off, along with attendee satisfaction. Also, be very careful in how you pick talks. Transparency is key, and if people aren't sure how a talk has been selected, then you can end up fostering ill will.
    2. Unconference: Moving outside the comfort zone of the average conference-goer, the Unconference can provide an amazing experience. Up-front planning differs from a Structured event in that there is no need to solicit speakers or talks. Your event will ideally have a theme, but this isn't an absolute must. The key is in clearly communicating the format and expectations up front. It is also reasonably imperative that you push attendees to show up at the beginning of the event so that they can participate in schedule-setting and make sure that their ideas or topics can get up on the grid. Downsides include pushing attendees outside their comfort zone and creating the potential for confusion. However, on the upside, these events tend to run themselves once the kickoff meeting concludes, and they seem to result in very satisfied attendees. Consider ways to collect notes from all break-out groups, and try to schedule a close-out meeting at the end of the day to bring everybody together to share their experiences, pros, cons, and so on.
    3. Hybrid: The Hybrid event has grown out of an acknowledgment that attendees are most naturally comfortable with the traditional Structured approach, but also often enjoy the free-flowing exchange of information unique to the Unconference format. This approach does tend to cost a bit more in facility charges up-front as you need to provide space for both Structured and Unconference event elements. However, you generally get most of the upsides and few of the downsides of both event types. There are, however, a few as-yet-unresolved gotchas to keep in mind; not the least of which being how to tackle scheduling Structured talks (i.e. should they be picked during the opening schedule-setting meeting, or pre-scheduled a la Structured events?).
  4. Gauge Sponsor Interest: Check out the pages on Sponsoring and giving a SponsorPitch. Have some numbers in mind when you talk to prospective sponsors. It can be useful to seek out "marquee" sponsors initially who can contribute money or facilities to help with tackling some of the larger expenses (e.g. facilities). Setup a BSides local event page: Use the BSidesTemplate page to get your shell site setup. Check out other recent events for ideas on formatting and setup.

 

Event Development

  1. Event Roles. Identify a ringmaster and assign EventRoles for your event. 

     

     
  2. Sponsors! Go get 'em! You need sponsors to make the event a success. Start contacting people, local security groups, etc. Determine up front whether or not you want to set a maximum or minimum for donates. We generally recommend not limiting donations, but it's up to you as the organizer.
  3. Setup event registration. In the beginning, event registration was done via an ugly table on the BSides local event page. You can still use this approach, but we don't necessarily recommend it. Instead, we suggest using a free service like Event Brite to capture registrations. Sites like these allow you free use for free events, with plenty of features that make event planning and coordination easy.
  4. Setup a topics/talks submission area. Depending on your format, you'll need to setup an area for suggested topics or talks. Even in the Unconference and Hybrid formats it can be useful to let people submit ideas for discussion groups to help spur interest in your event. For Structured and Hybrid events, you'll definitely want a space for talks to be submitted. Typically this is done with a separate page (e.g. BSidesSanFrancisco and BSidesSanFranciscoTalks).
  5. Setup the rest of the event info on the BSides local event page. Cover as much as you can up-front. If you expect people to want overnight accommodations, then it may be helpful to provide links to local hotels. If your venue is in a hotel, then be sure to ask about special rates for attendees.
  6. Begin defining needs (equipment, sponsorship, etc.) and volunteer opportunities. AV equipment packages may be available from your venue, but make sure you know what all you plan to do. Recording? (yes please!) Live streaming? (if possible!) Beyond this, continue looking at ways for sponsors to contribute. Also, look at ways to help staff the day. Sign-in table, schedule-setting meeting, emcee, general help, etc., etc., etc. Look at past events for ideas on what all might be needed.
  7. Promotion! Start promoting your event. Once you have the date and venue set, and some of the basic event info posted to the web site, start promoting it. In part, this will help you acquire volunteers to help with planning and running our event.
  8. Watch your numbers! The sooner you can get a budget in mind, the better. Balance this against committed sponsors, and start flagging "sponsorship opportunities" within your schedule/site itself. Providing a break-out of sponsorship opportunities can result in much better engagement from sponsors.
  9. Event Insurance. Don’t forget to find out if your venue requires event insurance: www.insurevents.com
  10. Feedback. Sign up for a free account with PollDaddy so you can send a quick survey out to the BSides and start planning for next year!

 

Near-Event Activities

  1. Confirm your venue!! We recommend confirming and re-confirming your venue. 2 months out: check. 1 month out: check. 1 week out: check. 1 day out: check. The absolute worst thing you could have happen is that you show up on the morning of your event only to find out that your event has no home. Obviously don't be too obnoxious, but scheduling foobars can happen. Make sure you get confirmations in writing. Double-check the dates on those confirmations, too.
    1. Pre-plan your event layout. Depending on the type of event your running, starting thinking about layout.
  2. Promote Promote Promote! The closer your event, the more promotion you should be doing. If your event requires people to travel special, then heavier promotion 1-3 months out is important. If you expect your attendees to primarily be local, then waiting until the last month for the "big push" on promotion is probably fine.
  3. Lock in speakers and talks (as applicable). We don't generally recommend waiting until the day before the event to post the schedule in a Structure format event. Posting the schedule a week out is reasonably neighborly. If you have special speakers flying in just for the event, then obviously you want to confirm them sooner than later. Bear in mind that transparency is imperative. Also remember that this point applies more to Structured or Hybrid events than anything else.
  4. Final push for sponsors. How are your numbers? Are you going to get stuck with a huge bill? Ask for all the help people can lend in getting sponsors. Have you set the floor too low for contributions? Accepting as little as $100 in sponsorship can quickly add up to defray costs. Bear in mind that small businesses make up the vast majority of the American business environment. These businesses are often excluded from having booths or actively promoting themselves at major conferences. BSides can be an excellent venue to get a name (and maybe some literature) into the hands of interested parties.
  5. Send out updates+reminders to your staff and volunteers. Identify your volunteers and staff, and then keep them in the loop. Need help with something? Ask! Now is a good time to make sure you have contact info for key people, and to ensure that they have your info, too.
    1. Consider a backup plan. If you're the primary planner, don't go it alone. Enlist help, and in particular co-host. What if you get into a car accident on the way to the event? What if your plane gets delayed en route to the site? Crazier things have happened, so as a security professional you should make sure you have a good continuity plan in place.
  6. Detail supplies needed and purchase sooner rather than later (if possible). Especially if you or one of your volunteers is local to the event, try to get supplies spec'd out and purchased more than a day before the event. Here are some common needs:
    1. For All: AV equipment, projectors, white boards or flip charts, markers (dry erase and Sharpie flip chart markers), a slide loop for sponsors, sponsor collateral (brochures, etc.), paper, pens, sign-in sheets, duct tape, networking equipment. Much of these things may be available from the venue.
    2. Unconference/Hybrid: Butcher paper (for the schedule grid), wide masking tape, 8.5x11 paper.
    3. Optional: T-shirts (staff, attendees), refreshments, meals.

 

The Day Before

  1. Confirm your venue!! If you've not been to the venue in-person, it's highly recommended that you make a visit the day before. This visit can also help facilitate invoicing, payments, etc., as needed and appropriate. More than anything, it's a good idea to get a feel for your venue before the day of the event because, come event day, you will be feeling the pressure. This walk-through can also help with Open Space planning if you're running an Unconference or Hybrid event.
  2. Confirm your help!! You should have a solid list of helpers by this point. Send out one more "see you tomorrow!" ping. Hopefully none of them will reply with a "what do you mean tomorrow?" message. Know who is doing what (this is vital for AV). Be ready to direct resources when you show up in the morning. Remind folks of when you'll need them!
  3. Supplies. If possible, make sure you have all your supplies purchased and ready. As appropriate, have a deployment plan in mind.
  4. Close formal registration and print the attendee list for sign-in. As appropriate, close-out the registration process and print a list of registered attendees so that you can do sign-in and, if you like, badging. If nothing else, sign-in is nice for getting a count of attendees.
  5. Post last-minute details. Update your local event site with any last-minute information (directions can be handy, particularly with visual landmarks/references). Are there any last-minute needs or rules?

 

Event Day

  1. Arrive early: Get on-site at least an hour before the planned start of the event. Earlier if there's expected to be a lot of setup work to be done.
  2. Setup: Get your setup done. Room setup, layout, sign-in table, staff/volunteer direction, schedule-setting grid setup, etc., etc., etc.
  3. Kickoff: It's ideal to have a kickoff meeting at the start of your event. This kickoff could be a few minutes (Structured) or 30+ minutes (Unconference/Hybrid). Build-in time for lunch and transitions. Stay positive! Remind attendees that they make the event successful, and that they are responsible for helping get something useful out of their attendance. Encourage participation. Agree to rules about photography (if you like - some attendees may be sensitive to this).
  4. Communicate & Execute: Post the schedule. Promote your sponsors. Get your program running. Stick to your schedule as much as possible.
  5. Wrap-up: It's useful to have a wrap-up meeting at the end of the day/event. What went well? What could use improvement? Would you attend again? What did you really like? Any talks or discussions really stick out? Take it all in, and then contribute your lessons learned back to rest of us.
  6. Tear-down and close-out: Know your responsibilities. If clean-up is your responsibility, then make sure you have volunteers pre-identified, as well as asking for help during the wrap-up session. Get AV torn down and secure media. Lights off, head out, good job!
  7. Evening activity? Some BSides events will have evening social events. Have a good time!

 

Post-Event

  1. Post videos and pictures.
  2. Thank your sponsors!!
  3. Update the local event site.
  4. Share a debrief (lessons learned, etc.) with the core team

 

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