"Shall I grab those speakers just in case there's an issue? Nah, it'll be good. Stop worrying."
Spoiler alert. That's going to come back and bite me in the ass!
I arrived in Bristol the night before and spent a pleasant evening with The Lovely Jill, who you'd have heard of if you've listened to any of our scammer calls. We went for a bite to eat and a drink before saying our goodnights at 9pm, both saying we were going to try and get an early night. At 2am I'm still staring at the clock, so that went well....
Day of the conference, we get there in time to collect our passes and queue up for the first talk. It's in the same room that my talk's in, so I get to check it out. It's big. I would say it's the biggest room I've spoken in so far. No pressure then.
Between the talks we wander around, checking out the sponsors' exhibits. If you need a pen or a webcam cover then you can't go much wrong with attending events like this. I swear that right now I'm stocked up with enough pens to keep me going until next year's one.
All this is of course just biding time until my talk. Finally it's my go. We go to connect my laptop to the system and have our first problem. The system doesn't like certain brands of laptop, and mine seems to be one of them. A replacement is quickly brought over for me to use. My talk is on my laptop so we copy it across to the donor laptop. First problem solved. Now we find out that the system doesn't work with HDMI audio, so we place the microphone as close as we can to the laptop's speakers. Those speakers I decided not to bring are now laughing at me at home. And so the talk starts. I'm getting laughs, and in the spots I was hoping to get them. It's all going well. Then the laptop freezes! Thankfully the staff are there fixing the issue (a dead battery on the laptop) and someone asks a question while it's being fixed so we get to fill the space with that. The rest of the talk goes without a hitch other than the audio not being perfect due to only coming out of the laptop speakers. We make do though, and the talk finally comes to an end. 30 minutes have absolutely flown by despite all the issues. We've survived! We're through the tunnel and out the other side!! It could have been so much worse. One speaker's laptop would need rebooting every few minutes, and one couldn't make it at all due to falling ill.
You can usually tell how well your talk went by how long it takes you to get your first question. This time I hadn't even had a chance to put my laptop back in its bag and I'd spoken to three people. I have to be honest with you here, the rest of the day is kind of a blur. I spend most of it split between talking to people who saw my talk and have more questions/attending other talks/updating people on how it went/sneaking off for a little bit of quiet "me" time and a nicotine hit away from the crowds. I also got to play with the battle bots. That was fun!
The first BSides talk I gave was at BSides Cymru in 21, and the organiser of that one had seen my talk so we ended up having a pretty long talk with each other about plans for future events. I joke that I'd actually put my talk forward for Cymru first, but got turned down. The end result of that is that it looks like I may be mentoring a new speaker at next year's event. I'm always happy to give back where I can and this would be a perfect opportunity to help build up the next generation.
Oh, I won a book by Jenny Radcliffe (The People Hacker) in the raffle. Someone else had claimed the 10 pack of 3.5" discs - the physical item the save button represents in case you didn't know - with one missing, so I went with the next best thing. If you think I'm joking here I'm not. There was a loud cheer when the person 2 or 3 before me picked the discs. It's that kind of an event.
I should say that as a speaker you get some extra benefits. You get a free pass to the event for one, but in all fairness the tickets are only a tenner each. I'll come back to that in a minute. You get a name badge with your name typed out instead of hand written. I didn't know this bit to start as I'd forgotten to mention I was a speaker when I showed my ticket. They had to come hunting for me to give me my "posh" badge. You do also get some extra freebies - a mug and a notebook with pen. If you're thinking "You lucky bastard, I'd love one of them!" then you should have entered the raffle as they had a few there as prizes. Not only that, but all the money from the raffle, sticker sales and t-shirt sales went to charity. I bought a whole bunch of stickers and 3 t-shirts. TLJ had nipped home to see to her dog for a bit when they were selling them, so one of them was for her.
All in all I had a thoroughly enjoyable but tiring day. There are BSide events all around the world. They're also cheap to attend. We can't do many of the conferences as they charge way too much to attend. There was one less than an hour from where I live a while back that was charging £999 and up a ticket. BSides on the other hand charge you just a few pound. Early bird tickets were only a fiver, and a tenner at full price. Even if two of you went, that's still less than the price of a pizza. And you get fed there too. Free tea/coffee/water, a meal halfway through, and - at least in this one - free curry and beer after. That pizza's not looking so great now is it?
In conclusion, I had a great time at BSides, managed to give my talk without too many issues, made a lot of new contacts (my LinkedIn was lit up after it!!) and got word about the site out. I'd like to say thank you to the people who organise these events, the people who volunteer, including the speakers, those who attended my talk, those who laughed with me and not at me and those who asked questions. And TLJ too. Her being there with me made it a lot easier for me to cope with such a mass of people. Photo of me is from her too.
I guess, see you at the next one? Or maybe I'll put the talk forward for BSides elsewhere in the UK. Who knows.
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