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Event Quick Start Guide

Think you want to plan a BSides? These initial steps will get you started:

Step One

Loop Us In! Drop a quick note to info (at) securitybsides dot org -or- call 415-742-1739 if you prefer a real voice. By engaging the core team, you can get support from our experienced event hosts, gain access to our list of current and prior sponsors, and receive promotional support as your event planning moves forward. Additionally, we’ll let you know if there are other event organizers looking to set-up something in your area for you to work with.

Step Two

Determine your budget. Like any event, running a BSides takes time and money. Make sure you have penciled out an estimated budget including how much you are able and willing to cover. We encourage you to seek sponsors to help lighten the financial cost and volunteers to multiply your time. Knowing where your limit is will help you with all the other details. BSides can accept donations from sponsors on your behalf but this often happens after the funds are needed (sometimes after the event). Be sure to plan ahead on how you'll cover these costs. Need more info? Email info (at) securitybsides (dot) org.  

Step Three

Decide when and where! Start by picking a preferred day or two for your event as that will help you in looking at venue availability. Then look at other conferences in the area around that time to ensure you’re not creating a conflict for potential attendees. Another place to check is the current list of events on the BSides FrontPage. We prefer not to schedule two events in the same week to maximize attendance at all events. More things to consider when selecting when and where to have your event:

    1. Consider weekend’s 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.
    2. Be considerate of hours. Rarely is a pre-9am start ok, with 10am - 5pm or 6pm a fairly common and generally accepted range.
    3. 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!).
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. "Where" should be reasonably convenient, as costs allow, remember the budget you set in step two. 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 
    7. View the venue in-person if possible. This will let you start envisioning your event. Decide where to have food, speakers, and help you determine format. 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.

Step Four

Ready to move forward? Let us know! Complete a New Event Questionnaire and send it via email with any other details you’ve arranged so far to: info (at) securitybsides (dot) org.  


Approved and ready to get planning underway? Here are some next steps to help plan a successful event:


  1. Create a community space online. Setup a BSides local event page: Use the BSidesTemplate page to get your shell site up and running. Check out other recent events for ideas on formatting and setup. Creating a wiki and/or email DL can facilitate discussions and give your volunteers, sponsors, and other people involved a single place to go for information on your event.
  2. Determine the format. Do you want to have a fully scheduled speaker line up or do you want it to be spontaneous? Maybe you want to combine the two. There are benefits to both.
  3. Gauge Sponsor Interest. Check out the pages on Sponsoring and giving a SponsorPitch. Having a budget outline and sponsorship opportunities (things that will cost money that sponsors can directly cover the cost o -- i.e. Chairs, A/V equipment, T-Shirts, etc.) will be helpful to have before talking to prospective sponsors. Another idea is to seek out "marquee" sponsors who can contribute money or facilities to help with tackling some of the larger expenses (e.g. venue).
  4. Open a Call For Papers (CFP). Your guests will likely want to do more than sit around and talk to each other (though space for this that is highly recommended!). Remember to set a deadline to create a sense of urgency and get the list of potential speakers started. Your preferred format will help you decide how many speakers you can accept. You can set up a “Talks” wiki page dedicated to your CFP with all the details. Use the navigator scroll from the right side of the homepage to see how others have done it.
  5. Collaborate and all that other stuff...  Join the “BSides Event Organizers” google group and read what other event organizers are doing and have learned as well as share your in site and experiences. Be sure to check out the “Hosting Tips” page and reference our “BSides Event Planning Checklist (coming soon!) for a chronological list of all the details to remember for a successful event.
  6. A happy ending. After the lights go down and guests are gone remember to send an email to your sponsors thanking them for their involvement and soliciting their feedback on your event.



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