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Behind the Scenes of a Virtual Event

Sara Sousa, Senior Manager of Events at Cobalt, gives a behind-the-scenes look into planning a virtual event and her key takeaways from SecTalks 2021.

Cobalt hosted SecTalks 2021 last month — a virtual cybersecurity conference with proven strategies from experts on ways to evolve, improve, and advance security practices. A panel of C-suite executives answered questions about the most important security data points to bring to a board meeting, how to handle M&A activity, and more.

You can check out all of the on-demand sessions from SecTalks to learn more about topics including:

  • How to handle tough conversations with leadership on budgets, organizational goals, team performance, and hiring.
  • Reviewing metrics, example dashboards, and best practices around pentesting analytics.
  • Gaining practical tips on how to strategically position security in your organization.

And, there's more where that came from. Sara Sousa, Senior Manager of Events at Cobalt, gives a behind-the-scenes look into planning a virtual event and her key takeaways from SecTalks 2021.

What went into planning this year’s SecTalks? Can you walk us through what it’s like to plan a virtual event?

Planning a virtual conference like SecTalks takes a village. We’re working with teams across various different functions - demand gen, website design, content, sales, and BDRs as well as our senior leadership team to develop a vision and experience that is worthwhile for attendees. Planning really began right after wrapping up our last SecTalks in February to review what worked, what didn't, and what could be done to make it even better this time around. For the past 6 months, various key stakeholders have been meeting bi-weekly (and then weekly) to review event deliverables, which included everything from sourcing speakers and sponsors to determining raffle prizes.

What does the future of SecTalks look like to you? How do you expect it to change or stay the same?

I think every one of my counterparts in the events world would agree that Covid has thrown us all for a loop with how events are executed and virtual is here to stay. On the other hand, there is tremendous value in in-person engagements. Given that, I think SecTalks will be re-imagined in 2022 and hopefully, we’ll take it on the road to share thought leadership to smaller, regionalized groups in a more intimate setting, keeping everyone’s health and safety at the forefront of our minds.

What was your favorite part of planning SecTalks 2021?

Having joined Cobalt after the February SecTalks event, I wasn’t sure what to expect during the planning process and working with a new team. Now that it’s behind us, I can easily say my favorite part of planning was watching the planning team work together to execute a stellar event that delivered a rock-star lineup of speakers and content. It truly was a team effort and I have no doubt that it would not have been as successful if I lost any one of those core team members.

What stuck out to you the most from the speaker lineup?

Our speaker lineup was amazing! The virtual setting allowed us to pre-record our sessions giving us access to many speakers who typically wouldn’t be available live due to their buddy schedule. I think my favorite session had to be “Speak My Language: How to Talk Security to Different Audiences”. The panel included security leaders at MasterCard, Target, and Netflix and they offered so many great nuggets of info on how to build a culture of security when you’re working with so many different personas.

As an events manager, in what ways have you had to pivot to the virtual environment?

Covid hit the events world hard so I had to do almost a complete 180! The biggest undertaking is learning all the new platforms and tools that are available in a virtual setting (and there are A LOT!). The second, and arguably more important, was finding creative ways to engage with attendees when they are getting inundated with invites to virtual events every day and Zoom fatigue is very real. Positioning conferences like SecTalks as half-day content-driven, self-education events vs behind the screen networking opportunities helps drive attendance. For more intimate events, what I’ve found to be the most successful while at Cobalt is a mix of thought leadership and an experiential aspect like our Lock Picking Events led by one of our very own lock picking experts and Sr. Director of Delivery, Jay Paz. He’s able to walk attendees through the fun of lock picking while simultaneously discussing the security tie-ins and how he's used those skills in his career as part of red team engagements.

Be sure to join us for ROI of Modern Pentesting: How ezCater Found Real-World Savings with PtaaS on December 7 at 10:00 am PST for a live, interactive webinar with security experts to learn how to strengthen your security program. Read more about 2022 Cybersecurity events here.

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About Caroline Wong
Caroline Wong is an infosec community advocate who has authored two cybersecurity books including Security Metrics: A Beginner’s Guide and The PtaaS Book. When she isn’t hosting the Humans of Infosec podcast, speaking at dozens of infosec conferences each year, working on her LinkedIn Learning coursework, and of course evangelizing Pentesting as a Service for the masses or pushing for more women in tech, Caroline focuses on her role as Chief Strategy Officer at Cobalt, a fully remote cybersecurity company with a mission to modernize traditional pentesting via a SaaS platform coupled with an exclusive community of vetted, highly skilled testers. More By Caroline Wong