How To Dominate Conferences Like A Boss

A Guide To RSA Conference, SXSW, Collision, SaaStr, Startup Grind, TC Disrupt, And Pretty Much Any Other Conference

10 min readApr 21


Do conferences make you feel lost, overwhelmed, and a constant sense of FOMO?

You’re bumping into hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of people you don’t know. (Looking at you, RSA Conference!)

You’re faced with overlapping conference talks but you end up missing the ones you really wanted to attend.

You’re swarmed by tech vendors trying to sell you the next-gen product … or snake oil, you can’t tell.

You’re inundated with too many (or not enough) invitations to happy hours, dinners, and after-parties.

Conferencing sucks every ounce of energy out of you.

“For what?” you ask yourself. To which you promptly reply, “Idunno.”

Going to conferences doesn’t have to be an energy-draining, pointless, and unproductive endeavor.

Feel in control the next time you go to one.

Get the most out of your time and energy.

Check off some of your job, career, social, and even personal goals, instead of aimlessly floating through the event.

No more feeling FOMO.

No last minute panicking about which talk or after-party to attend.

No more overbooked (or empty) calendar.

No aimless walking at the expo hall or conference hallways because you missed the talk you really wanted and you’re simultaneously bored and frazzled.

No overwhelming sense that you’re wasting time and energy.

Welcome to conference bliss.

You can dominate conferences like a boss.

I’m sharing below some of my own personal strategies for approaching conferences. I’m writing this blueprint equally as a reminder for me (and my future conference-going self) and to share it with you.

When Deciding Whether To Register For A Conference

1. Go back to first principles.

I ask myself: Am I required to attend this conference? Do I have to go because I’ve committed as a speaker? Do I have to attend for work and professional requirements?

If it’s not necessary to attend, then ask: Will this conference at least meet some some of my work, career, professional, business, and even personal goals? Ideally, you would’ve set those goals at the beginning of each year. (I will share more about this in a future post.) If you haven’t gone through this exercise, take a few minutes to jot down what you’d like to accomplish by attending the conference.

With defined goals, I then ask: Are there easier ways to for me to accomplish these goals? Is this conference the best way to accomplish them?

If I find that my answers align with my defined goals, then I’m going to that conference! If I’m left when a sense of dread because my responses to the above questions don’t satisfy me, then I sit out that conference.

2. Make the necessary arrangements.

Once I’ve decided to pull the trigger, make the necessary conference arrangements:

  1. Get approval for time off or reimbursement from my employer, if needed. [I currently don’t have to do this step given I’ve started my own company, but I’m keeping it on the list for others.]
  2. Register for the conference early and try not to miss the early bird pricing.
  3. Book flights, if needed. The further away to travel date, the cheaper flights are, the more savings for my employer, my client (if they’re paying for my travel), or my own company.
  4. Book accommodations, if needed, and try not to miss the discounted room block rates. If I’m too late, I find a hotel close to the conference venue to make the most out of my conference experience.

2–4 Weeks Before The Conference

1. Inventory & prioritize people, talks, and events.

I take inventory of all the people I’d like to meet, talks I’d like to attend, and events I’d like to go to. I review the conference agenda and take note of all the interesting talks I’d like to attend. I gather all the adjacent event invitations (happy hours, receptions, dinners, after-parties) I’m interested in attending. I check to see who’s attending the conference-I look at the speaker list, the attendee list, my social media feed, and even reach out to specific people I have in mind to see if they’re attending.

Next, I remind myself of my work, career, professional, business, and even personal goals. With these goals as my North Star, I begin going through my inventoried people, talks, and events, and prioritize the ones that meet my goals.

Last and perhaps most importantly, I say no to people, talks, and events that don’t meet my goals. It wasn’t easy to do so at first, but I now thank myself for 1) making time for my priorities and 2) not spreading myself thin.

2. Get calendar in order.

I start scheduling the people, talks, and events I’ve decided to prioritize into my calendar. I even get extra dorky and color-code my calendar, to visually differentiate conference talks, 1:1 meetings, networking/social events, work time (if I’m unable to completely take off time from work), personal time, and travel time.

Speaking of travel time, I make sure to schedule breaks and buffers in between. This includes accounting for sleep, exercise, and meals.

3. Streamline scheduling.

If I need to schedule meetings with people before I can put them on my calendar, I try to figure out ways to streamline scheduling. There are countless ways to do this.

If I happen to have an executive assistant or personal assistant, I delegate this to them. If I don’t (a couple of my previous jobs didn’t include having this valuable support), then I rely on tools like Calendly, Doodle, etc. I make sure these tools reflect my availability to avoid conflicts with the other priorities I’ve already put on my calendar. If I’m able to, I stack my meetings back-to-back and pick one meeting place, for efficiency.

If it makes sense, I consider hosting my own event and inviting the people I’d like to catch up with, especially if we’re unable to meet 1:1. (As an example, for RSA Conference 2023, I’m hosting this social event, to which I’ve personally invited hundreds of people in my network.)

1–3 Days Before The Conference

1. Review (and adjust) calendar.

I like to check and visually see my calendar a few days before a conference for several reasons. I want to make sure I have my priorities calendared. It allows me to catch any double booking and correct it before it’s too late. It allows me to check in with myself and make a realistic assessment of whether my schedule works. Did I book too much? Not enough? Did I account for sleep, exercise, meals, and travel? If something feels off, I’m still able to adjust it.

I also make sure each calendar item has the appropriate times for reminders. For example, if I need to leave an event 20 minutes before my next meeting, I usually have a 1-hour reminder and a second 30-minute reminder.

2. Visualize ideal conference experience.

Leading up to a conference, I like to visualize my ideal conference experience. I like to do this with my priorities and goals in mind. I picture things going according to plan.

I arrive at the conference, check in, get settled, go through my calendar, and get a workout in or nice meal or drink before the craziness begins.

I attend my preferred sessions, meet the speakers. If I’m speaking, I give my talk and engage the audience.

All my meetings go successfully. I build or nurture important relationships.

I make it to my preferred events: breakfasts, lunches, receptions, dinners, happy hours, and/or after-parties. I meet good and interesting people. I have fun.

But I don’t have too much fun. Or more accurately, I turn in to get enough sleep.

Rinse. Repeat. (If it’s a multi-day conference.)

3. Pack adequately.

There’s nothing more I hate than forgetting to bring something I need and having to take time out of my schedule to run off to a store to get it. For this reason, I have a separate note on my phone for conference packing. (This is separate from my travel packing list, but I often have to go through both when I have to travel for a conference.)

Below is my conference packing list (note: not my general travel packing list which is a tad bit too personal to publish here):

  • The necessary electronics, their chargers, and a back-up power bank
  • AirPods (for confidential work calls, a quick meditation course, and/or a podcast or music break in between events)
  • Water bottle
  • Emergency sustenance (typically a power bar or individually wrapped string cheese)
  • Company credit card for business expenses
  • Personal IDs and credit cards (although I don’t worry as much about these nowadays, with my iPhone storing these)
  • Pen and blank book for writing (I don’t worry as much about these either, for the same reason)
  • Business-branded laptop stickers to give out
  • Comfy shoes

4. Get some sleep.

Speaking of sleep, I always try to get a good nights’ sleep. And I recognize it’s even more critical for me to do so leading up to a conference, when my sleep’s most likely going to be inadequate. I could dedicate an entire post on sleep, but in the interest of avoiding digression, I’m sharing some of my favorite sleep routines:

  • I cut out caffeine after 2 pm.
  • I eat my last meal at least 3 hours before I intend to sleep. (So if I want to be asleep by 10 pm, I make sure to eat before 7 pm.)
  • I turn off or dim bright lights at least an hour before bed. (I like to light candles in lieu of lights.)
  • I cut out electronics 30 minutes before bed. (I used to leave my phone outside my bedroom, but I still have to figure out how to play my meditation app from my watch.)
  • I read and meditate during those last 30 minutes before sleep.
  • I jot down any worrying thoughts about the conference, work, or anything else, really, just to get them out of my mind and on paper. I have a journal on my nightstand for this.
  • When all else fails, I do some deep breathing. I count to four (at least) to breathe in and another four to breathe out. If I lose track and my mind wanders, I note it, let it go, and just go back to deep breathing. (Others like counting sheep, but that one’s never worked for me-the idea is to pick a focus, whatever works for you!)

During The Conference

1. Eat. Hydrate. Exercise. Sleep.

Eating, hydrating, exercising, and sleeping adequately become easier because I’ve done a lot of the prep (see above) to ensure that they don’t go down the drain during the conference. Ideally, these are reflected on my calendar and/or reminders.

For example, I have a calendar reminder to wind down for the night. And I have an hourly reminder that simply says “H20” to remind me to drink water and avoid dehydration! The latter might be too much for most people, but it works for me because I’m prone to forgetting to eat or hydrate when I’m in the zone … like what’s happened during the past three hours, as I write and edit this post. Gah!

2. Practice presence.

As I go through the conference-meet people, attend/give talks, go to events, etc.-I do my best to be present and not worry about the next thing on my calendar. That’s what reminders are for. ;-)

Another tool that helps me stay present is a note or document on my phone dedicated to the conference that lets me quickly jot down people, companies, ideas, etc. that I want to look into later. Others prefer having a physical notebook, but I’m personally too risk-averse and I worry about losing it. Either way (physical or digital tool), the idea is to pay attention to what’s in front of me.

3. Let go.

Despite all the planning and organization, things don’t always go according to plan. I’ve learned to let go-ah yes, easier said than done. Here are some things that help me let go:

  • I ask myself a series of questions: So what if X didn’t go according to plan? Will it really result to [insert whatever doomsday scenario I’ve conjured]? Can I fix X? Even if I don’t fix X, is it possible that things are okay despite X not going according to plan?
  • I take accountability and apologize for my part in X going wrong-no more, no less.
  • I correct X, if possible.
  • I remind myself that everything’s okay, despite X not going according to plan.
  • I practice gratitude for all the things (or letters A, B, C, …W, Y and Z) that went according to plan. ;)

4. If all else fails, breathe.

Scientifically, six deep breaths help manage stress and promote relaxation. Anecdotally, they work for me 99% of the time. (Maybe I’ll write about that 1% one day…)

After The Conference

1. Follow up.

After a conference, I like to follow up with the people I met with. I also follow up on interesting ideas that I may have come across from one of the people I met or one of the talks or events I attended.

I categorize follow-up work into the following:

  • Thank-Yous. I thank people for making time to meet with me 1:1, inviting me to their event, coming to my own event, sharing their insightful ideas in their talks, inviting me to speak, and/or doing business with me and/or The Rise of Privacy Tech (TROPT), etc.
  • Business Opportunities. I also follow up with people and organizations who expressed interest in collaborating with me and/or TROPT. I schedule follow-up meetings, share proposals, tie any loose ends, etc.
  • Research. Remember that conference-dedicated note/document on my phone? I make myself a hot coco (doing my best not to go through my Oaxacan hot chocolate stash!), sit back, open up that note/document, and look up the people, companies, and ideas that piqued my interest enough to make it to the list. This follow-up work includes searching things on Brave/Bing/chatGPT, sending out LinkedIn requests or emails to people, and doing deep dives on a topic.

2. Reflect & iterate.

Post-conference, I reflect on my pre-conference planning strategies (outlined above) and how they fared in practice. I brainstorm ways to improve them. Sometimes, this means tweaking them; other times, it means replacing altogether them with a better strategy. [Don’t worry, I’ll update this post as I update my strategies. You’re welcome!]

3. Reap the benefits.

My favorite part is reaping the many benefits of thoughtfully approaching conferences. I’d say the benefits typically come several ways:

  • New / stronger relationships
  • Business opportunities or straight-up business deals
  • Interesting ideas (for my own personal curiosity)
  • Visibility for The Rise of Privacy Tech (TROPT), my privacy tech and cybersecurity portfolio startups, my clients, etc.

In addition to the above and perhaps most importantly, I find that having conference strategies help me maintain a sense of calm, purpose, and gratitude during an otherwise overwhelming period.

What’s your favorite conference strategy? I’d love to know!

Originally published at If you’d like to be the first to receive my future writings, feel free to subscribe to my Substack.




Founder & CEO @PIX_LLC @PrivacyTechRise | Privacy & Cybersecurity Strategist & Board Advisor| Reformed Silicon Valley Lawyer | @LourdesTurrecha