Security conferences are a big part of the infosec world, and a great way to get involved. There are a lot of people whop recommend giving a talk at them. The problem is, how do you get to give a talk, when you aren’t known.
I have this issue, and it bugs me. I am not gunning to be some infosec hotshot, some superstar that everyone knows. I just want to be helpful and give insight to the community from my perspective. I am not a bug hunter, or a pentester, I am just a little fish. I help out with the Burbsec meetups here in the Chicago area, and although I have talked at one B-Sides Chicago back in 2014, I haven’t given a talk since. I’ve volunteered at Hak4Kids, and do what I can. I try to stay active and engage in the infosec twitter community. So why have I not been able to get a talk in at another con? I have my theories, the biggest one being subject matter.
It is not that I have bad ideas for a talks. I bounce my ideas off others I know, some of them give three or more talks a year. My ideas though, seem to be popular ones with the better known speakers. You know, the people that might make top 100 influencer lists, have thousands of twitter followers, and are generally highly regarded by the community in general. Not that this is a bad thing, it just makes it difficult for those of us who might not have the technical experience, to get our thoughts on these topics out there. It is the Catch 22 of con speaking. Yes you can volunteer in other ways that are important to the cons, and that can give you the leg up on getting your talk in. In the end though, it is frustrating if that is the only reason, but it is a correctable one.
The real issue is the lack of feedback when you get the rejection e-mail. All my rejections have been variations on, “We only had so many speaking slots this year and a large number of submissions. We hope to see you at the conference.” While that is almost always true, what was it that didn’t allow the talk to be selected, because that is not the only reason. We all know it. Even saying that there is a similar talk that was submitted before yours, sounds more put together than yours, or along those lines, at least gives more feedback. Giving actual constructive criticism though, helps the most. With that we, the rejected can take that information and use it to make a better presentation, a better talk, a better CFP. Just blaming it on the amount of submissions the easy way out. It is the antivirus only, we don’t need no patches solution, and it can and will in the long run, hurt the quality of talks.
B-Sides Chicago use to have 2 tracks. The main track and the local/new presenter track. Maybe all conferences should go to this model and give those who are not well known or have little experience talking at cons a chance. We all might learn more than you imagine.