It’s just a couple days until RSA Conference 2011. Is this your first time attending the security conference in San Francisco? Having attended for a few years now I can safely say that there are some things you should take into account before you show up. First of all, download the Securosis Guide to RSA 2011 (PDF) or (ePub).

Next you need a plan. After you have completed registration, which I assume by this point you have, consider your options. When you arrive on site at the Moscone Center give yourself a good amount of time to get through registration and badge pickup. The conference folks manage a good job of processing people through, but there will be a lot of people. Give yourself enough time.

Next up, what to see? There is far too much content to expect to see it all. As a result you need a plan for which talks to attend. RSA has a daily planner on its site that can help. This is a helpful resource, but it doesn’t entirely do it for me. I want something tailored to my interests. Thankfully, RSA has created a tool for that. Behold the personal scheduler! I should point out that you must be logged into the RSA Conference site to access that tool.

So next ask yourself why you are coming to RSA. What are you there to learn? Or are you taking a break on the company dime? I know some of you are doing just that; I’ve seen it before. So be honest with yourself. Which tracks interest you? There are quite a few this year:

  • Application and Development
  • Business of Security
  • Cloud Security (new for 2011)
  • Cryptography
  • Data Security
  • Governance & Risk Compliance
  • Hackers & Threats
  • Hot Topics
  • Industry Experts
  • Law
  • Policy & Government
  • Professional Development
  • Sponsor Case Studies
  • Strategy & Architecture
  • Technology Infrastructure (also new)

Not to mention some great talks like these and programs like e10+ for more experienced attendees. That’s a lot to choose from, so I would suggest you do your homework and be sure to check into the talks before you arrive. It would be a shame to find that you’ve landed smack in the middle of an hour-long lecture on widgets when you’re more interested in grapple grommets.

Then there is the shark tank: the convention floor. Sweet mother, this is one massive collection of vendors. All of them are hunting for your dollars. That’s the name of the game. They’re not all there just to hand out free t-shirts. These folks work for a living. Take some time to speak with them and get to know their products. You can show up in a suit and be swarmed, or conversely, dress down if you want to blend into the background.

The most important thing to remember for the convention floor is to wear a comfortable pair of shoes.

No, really.

The first time I went to RSA my back was out of commission for several days afterwards. That said, enjoy your time at the conference and bring along your favourite headache remedy. After you’re done with the vendor parties don’t forget to show up for the Securosis Disaster Recovery Breakfast Thursday morning – and be sure to RSVP.