Valence 2023 RSA Conference Survival Guide

Adrian Sanabria
April 20, 2023
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min read
Valence 2023 RSA Conference Survival Guide

RSA is a busy time for security folks. With so many people to meet and events to attend it’s easy to overlook some basic—but critical—planning strategies. That’s why we thought it’d be helpful to put together a primer on how to not only survive but thrive at this year’s conference.

Before we jump into the survival guide, we wanted to let you know that we’ll be out in force at RSA this year!

In case you missed it, Valence was chosen as a top 10 finalist in the 2023 Sandbox competition. It’s a terrific honor and we could not be more excited. Yoni Shohet, CEO and Co-Founder of Valence will present our SaaS security solution live in-person on Monday, April 24 at the Innovation Sandbox.

Additionally, members of the Valence team will be at YL Ventures' annual cocktail party.

Join the teams from YL Ventures along with their portfolio companies Cycode, Eureka Security,, Opus Security, Satori, Spera Security, and Vulcan Cyber.

This is always a great opportunity to unwind and talk shop with some of the industry’s brightest minds. Come have a cocktail with the Valence Security team—you won’t want to miss it!

Date/Time: April 26, 6pm PDT
Location: Novela, 662 Mission Street

Identify Your Conference Goals

What do you really want to accomplish at RSA? The RSA Conference is one of the largest and oldest cybersecurity conferences and has far more opportunities than any single person can take advantage of. The good news is that, since it is spread across 4-5 days, it’s possible to do a bit of everything. Here are some suggestions and examples:

Networking: make connections on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Mastodon, etc. Then plan to meet your connections in person. If you don’t put it on your calendar though, it might not happen, so reach out and set a time and place for in-person meetings.

Learning: Attend talks, take copious notes, and ask lots of questions - even ones you might think are dumb! I can’t emphasize this point enough: don’t be scared to ask questions. Something you might think is the dumbest question could lead to good conversation, new connections, and even new opportunities. Talk to speakers, trade business cards—in general, make your presence known, and soak up as much good information as you can.

Prospecting: if you’re looking at RSA as an opportunity to engage prospects, do so wisely. Engage in authentic conversations, offer real-world advice, and share your expertise with interested parties. See my previous suggestion on asking questions during talks. If you ask good, thought-provoking questions, it’s possible leads could come to you following the talk to continue the conversation you started! Note that you’ll need a full pass to do this - a lot of vendors tend to go for expo-only passes, which won’t get you into talks. One more point - truly ask questions - don’t put your hand up to make a statement.

Hiring: looking for a job? Scope out events put on by companies that are hiring. Try to speak to someone at the company in person to fast-track the hiring process. Shaking hands, looking people in the eye, and explaining your superpowers is a great way to gain an advantage over other applicants!

Boozing: It goes without saying that there’s a fair amount of adult beverage consumption at the conference. It probably should not be your goal to get hammered, it’s entirely possible to do so. Just beware that your personal reputation as well as the image of any organizations you work for or represent are also attached to your actions!

Remember: the conference is crowded with sales reps, product experts, and anyone else working in the industry. The opportunity to make real connections with peers is one of my favorite things about in-person conferences.

Prepare for Meetings

People might not know how much time and effort they should spend preparing for meetings at RSA. This is totally reasonable! After all, you’re one person with a finite amount of time/energy and chances are you’re already slammed. Here are a few tactics to keep in mind:

Business cards: bring business cards—lots of them—or some other way for folks to easily get in touch with you after the conference. This sounds obvious, but I can tell you from experience that dishing out business cards left and right can deplete your supply quicker than you’d like!

Meetings: there are plenty of opportunities to meet people casually at RSA, but if you don’t want to leave it up to fate, make sure to schedule meetings now! RSA calendars fill up fast and you don’t want to miss a chance to chat with the right folks at the right time

Socialize: the conference doesn’t have to be all business. Take time to relax with a peer or group of friends. Even meeting with a vendor and learning about an interesting new solution is a great way to keep your mind engaged and your energy levels high

Just say no: Don’t say yes to a meeting simply to be polite—you’re wasting time for you and the other person. I’ll admit there are temptations: I once said yes to a meeting in exchange for a 2nd gen iPod Nano (I was weak-willed and poor at the time). In my defense, the product was really cool, but I knew there was no way I’d get my company to pay for it

Encourage Teamwork

One person is not enough to take advantage of everything RSA has to offer. This is where teamwork comes into play. Make a plan with your team so when the conference is over everyone can share insights and opportunities

Notes: everyone should be ready to take lots of notes and share what they’ve learned. There are so many ways to incorporate what you learn and experience into future business initiatives—emphasize to your team that it’s super important to soak up as much intel as possible

Vendors: hundreds of vendors will be at RSA. If you’re looking at products, or even want to see what a competitor is up to, tell your team to divide and conquer! Divide up different parts of the conference that each team member will cover and then report back.

Meeting with colleagues or friends: decide on a common meeting place beforehand. Locate the W, St. Regis, Marriott, and InterContinental on a map—these are the most likely locations outside Moscone where you’ll have meetings. They’re all easily walkable from Moscone if you know what direction to go in. San Francisco is dense, and there are duplicates of some stores, hotels, and restaurants. Consider that your first search result might not be the one right next to Moscone that everyone else in your WhatsApp/Signal group is talking about going to!


Spend some time exploring maps around Moscone before you go. Can you walk from your hotel to Moscone? You should know the answer and how long it will take!

The conference is spread across four main areas:

North Moscone: Registration is here, starting on Saturday, April 22 and ending Tuesday evening (hours). You can take escalators down to the North Expo floor. Last year, the analyst briefing rooms were upstairs here. Previously, they had been right at the bottom of the escalators. Note: the doors to Yerba Buena Gardens will let you out, but not back in!

South Moscone: You can register here, too. Take the escalators down to the South Expo floor. There are also usually talks here. There’s a passageway underneath the streets between the North and South Expo areas that has bathrooms and more expo space. A sky bridge connects North and South Moscone.

West Moscone: You’ll find some media booths and the RSA bookstore here. Some authors will be signing their books! On the second and third levels, you’ll find most of the talk tracks. There will be coffee, water all the time, and snacks are periodically brought out.

The Marriott Marquis: This year, only training is in the Marriott - the early stage expo and Innovation Sandbox are both in South Moscone. Don’t confuse the Marquis with the Marriott in Union Square when punching in rideshare directions!

Explore the Expo

If you want to check out specific vendors, download the expo floor plans before you go! Also: the RSA website will let you add talks you want to see to an agenda and add vendors to a list of favorites. This can give you a handy list that you can use to map out where you need to go and on what days.

The expo this year is bigger than I can ever recall - over 400 vendors will have a booth! There is typically also a foldout map in the badge hanging around your neck, so be sure to pull that out if you get lost! Both expo areas also have maps at the entrance to North and South Moscone on the lower levels, and each area is laid out in a numbered grid that will be labeled with signs hanging from the ceiling.

Note that the Expo is open for a MUCH shorter period than the rest of the conference. It’s only open for two and a half days: a 2-hour welcome reception on Monday, 10am-6pm on Tuesday and Wednesday, and 10am-3pm on Thursday.

The Early Stage Expo has an even shorter schedule: a 2 hour welcome reception on Tuesday (the CyBEER Ops Networking Reception), with hours from 9:30am - 4:30pm on Wednesday and 9:30am - 3pm on Thursday.

Networking and Events

Many parties and events require advance registration and are limited. These aren’t officially linked to RSA, so you will have to go through vendors or organizations directly to register. Some of these fill up quickly so make sure you register ASAP if there are some you really want to go to. Sometimes you can get tickets to parties at the conference, or at a vendor’s booth.

Don’t assume external events will be within walking distance of Moscone. As RSA has increased in size, folks have been forced to go further and further away from Moscone to host private parties. The biggest of these external events is BSides San Francisco, which runs on Sunday and Monday. It’s hosted at the AMC Metreon 16, which is located right next to Yerba Buena Gardens, before you get to the Marriott Marquis.

Don’t cover every moment of your schedule with talks and meetings. If you know a lot of folks in the industry, there’s a good chance you’ll run into them and want to make some spontaneous plans. I find 4 or 5 talks I really want to go see and try to keep blocks of time on my calendar open. I also block off time to wander the expo floors.

Travel Tips

BladderOps: Always use the bathroom when the opportunity is presented, even if the need isn’t urgent. Nothing is worse than arriving at a meeting or talk and realizing that you have to pee like crazy. This goes for travel in general, not just attending a big conference.

BlisterOps: Unless you’re sure you can handle 80,000 steps with the footwear you’re bringing, plan on blisters. Bandages can be helpful to cover up spots where skin is getting chafed or rubbed raw. I travel with a mini first-aid kit that has bandages, aspirin, ibuprofen, etc.

LuggageOps: Unless you’re very determined not to take any swag, there’s a good chance you’ll need some extra room in your luggage to bring stuff home (e.g., I won a drone one year). One travel hack is that jeans (unless you spill something on them), don’t really get dirty like other clothing. Two pairs of jeans are plenty to get you through the whole week. You WILL want daily changes of socks, shirts, and underwear, however. All that walking gets schwetty.

💡Conference Hack: it’s a small risk, but you could leave with less socks and t-shirts than you need, and then pick some up from the expo area. Socks and t-shirts are very common swag.

PowerOps: Anker, UGreen, and Satechi GaN (Gallium Nitride) chargers are awesome, and take up MUCH less space. You can get away with just one brick half the size of a MacBook charger to charge your laptop, tablet, and phone. Also, if everything you have is USB-C, you can cut down on cables as well.

Portable batteries are nice to have. They make smaller 5000maH and 10000maH powerbanks that are light enough for pockets but can only recharge phones or tablets. You can also get a big honkin’ 20000maH+ powerbank that can even recharge a laptop, but make sure to check that you can charge your laptop via USB-C and that the output is high enough for your laptop to charge—some refuse to charge off lower output power sources. These can get VERY HOT, so beware. Probably give them some air while they’re charging at the highest rate

WeatherOps: It never hurts to bring an umbrella. SF weather is unpredictable. Even in April, it can get cool enough for a jacket in the evenings


Do you need to be functional on Thursday or Friday? Or over the weekend following RSA? Make sure you schedule some time for rest. Have early morning plans? Don’t go out at night. Don’t go to parties. Think marathon, not sprint.

Plan for at least 30 minutes of walking time between meetings. If you’re walking from the back of the South Expo to a talk at Third Floor Moscone West, plan for about a 20–25-minute walk. Even between talk tracks—within—Moscone West, plan for 5-10 minutes of walking time. Wear comfy shoes. Plan on 15-20k steps if you’ve got a full schedule—I’m not even joking.

RSA is good about bundling similar talks close together, sometimes in the same room. Show up a little early to a talk you really want to see—there are limits to room seating and you won’t be able to get in as soon as it’s full. Note: you can’t camp in a talk track! They’ll clear the room, and you have to get back in line, even if you’re planning to watch another talk in the same track.

Uber and Lyft work well, but it’s often best to have them drop you off a block or so away. As you get closer to Moscone, it takes longer to drive than to walk. There are also scooters, provided they haven’t all been thrown into the bay by now.

Maintain Energy

Avoid getting sick and/or feeling beat down by keeping your immune system healthy. Hydrate and eat healthy. Hydrate during the flight and immediately after—airplanes recycle air so quickly and so often you could probably make jerky on them. Moscone has hydration stations near bathrooms, just like airports! Many hotels now have these as well, often one per floor, near the ice maker. How to know if you’re hydrated? With all this exercise and walking, you should be peeing CLEAR—like, barely a hint of any color. If not, drink more

Take breaks outside. Yerba Buena Gardens is right there and is a great place to take some deep breaths and soak up some sunshine. Skip the parties. If you’re going to sustain full days of talks, exploring expos, and having meetings all over the place, you need a good break at the end of the day:

  • Grab a quiet dinner with friends
  • make some notes about the day
  • catch up with social media and/or family back home

If you’re based on the East Coast, you might try to stay on East Coast time, that way there’s no adjustment when you go back home. If you’re from more than 3 time zones away—good luck…

Food Tips

Find restaurants at least 10 minutes away from Moscone—it will be quieter and easier to get a table. Just about everything, including restaurants, will be reserved for private meetings and parties by vendors. If you want to have a nice dinner, start scoping out restaurants and making reservations

Places like Amber India are pretty much impossible to get into without a reservation. One exception is The Grove—it’s usually easy to get in and out for a quick meal or lunch meeting. Mel’s Drive-In is a great place to get an American-style breakfast that will keep you fueled throughout most of a crazy day.

I eat nothing but salads and the healthiest stuff I can find for every meal, because I know that, at any point, the group I’m with is going to decide to go to the bar where they serve 30 different kinds of sausage. I prepare for this moment by eating 100% not sausage the rest of the time.

Reduce Waste

Recycling is a lie: try to avoid single-use plastics and coffee cups as much as possible. Trash reduction isn’t the only benefit either—with nice, insulated containers, you can put hot coffee and cold water in your backpack, leaving your hands free! You can also save a ton of money over buying bottled water.

I bring a big, insulated water bottle with me, and a smaller insulated container for coffee or tea. Worst case, you can pick up a free reusable bottle from a vendor in the expo area. Don’t take swag unless you really think you’re going to use it. Most swag goes straight in the trash, so if it’s really garbage that no one wants, we should send that signal by not taking it. If we take it just to be kind, they’ll keep making it, bringing it, and putting it in the trash.

About the Conference

The RSA Conference is an annual cybersecurity conference that typically takes place in San Francisco, California. It is one of the largest and most well-known conferences in the cybersecurity industry, attracting thousands of attendees from around the world. The conference features keynote speakers, educational sessions, panel discussions, and an exhibition floor where vendors showcase their latest products and services related to cybersecurity. The conference is organized by RSA Security and covers a wide range of topics related to information security, including cryptography, cloud security, risk management, and emerging technologies. The conference serves as a forum for cybersecurity professionals to learn about the latest trends and best practices in the industry, as well as to network and share ideas with their peers.

About RSA’s Innovation Sandbox

The Innovation Sandbox is a competition that features some of the most innovative and promising early-stage cybersecurity startups from around the world. The competition is designed to provide a platform for these startups to showcase their innovative ideas, technologies, and products to the broader cybersecurity community.

During the competition, the selected startups have a chance to present their ideas and technologies in front of a panel of judges, which typically includes venture capitalists, industry executives, and security experts. The judges then evaluate the startups based on their innovation, market potential, and ability to address real-world cybersecurity challenges.

The winner of the Innovation Sandbox competition is selected based on a combination of judges' evaluations and audience voting. The winner receives recognition and exposure to potential customers, investors, and partners, as well as a trophy and other prizes.

Overall, the Innovation Sandbox is a valuable platform for early-stage cybersecurity startups to gain visibility, validation, and networking opportunities, as well as for the broader cybersecurity community to stay informed about the latest innovations and trends in the industry.

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