I had the pleasure of attending the 2019 Women in CyberSecurity (WiCyS) conference and giving a lightning talk with Tom Kopchak and Heather Ricciuto. This year–due to Coronavirus-related concerns WiCyS was a bit different, as it took on the format of being a virtual conference.
As wonderful as it is to go somewhere different and meet new folks in person, the benefits of a typical in-person conference were still there and didn’t change much. Rather than traveling from room to room, I traveled from Zoom to Zoom–listening to wonderful speakers and taking notes just as I normally would.
This blog post is my take on how things went to give those planning to attend a virtual conference–which you totally should!–a better idea of what to expect.
Conference differences you should be aware of
After experiencing both in-person and virtual conferences, I decided to break down some of the major differences between the two conference types.
1.) Attending a virtual conference
WiCyS chose to use vFairs, a virtual conference platform to host the conference, and Zoom was the medium for delivering the talks in real-time. The speakers were set up as panelists with an unlimited audience size. Even though the process of attending sessions and listening to talks was essentially no different from the norm, there was an unexpected distraction: the chat.
Unfortunately, joining the sessions as an audience member severely limited my ability to turn features on and off, and I did not have a way to mute the chat. This quickly became a large distraction and took some attention away from the speaker. However, similar to in-person conferences where there is always background noise in the halls, the chat notifications soon turned into background noise.
Shoutout to our talk!
The presentation Tom, Heather, and I put together for WiCyS had a few goals, such as spreading knowledge and interest about the Collegiate Penetration Testing Competition (CPTC), increasing the number of women participating in the competition, and hopefully gaining a few volunteers along the way.