I was on the organizing team for the OWASP Summit 2011. Not as deeply involved as Sarah, Dinis, Lorna, Jason, Deb, Sandra, and Paulo ... but I did organize the four Browser Security sessions.
I truly believe that the Summit format is the way OWASP conferences should go. We should not try to compete with Black Hat, Defcon, BSides or whatever conference out there. We should do something different, geared towards productivity.
Below is how I setup the browser security track and my humble suggestion for making a difference:
1. Prioritize People when Planning
The success of your session boils down to people. If you're at a workshop and "the guy who has all the answers" is not there the workshop is not going to be productive. So my overall goal was to get the right people there. However, you cannot start by inviting people, you only need to start with it as your top priority.
2. Build a Draft Agenda
To be able to successfully invite the right people I had to have a relevant draft agenda. So I spent a weekend watching various webcasts of talks from the people I wanted to invite. From that I built my draft agenda. I basically adopted their agenda and tweaked it with some personal stuff.
3. Reach Out to Key Players
Now that you have a draft agenda you can reach out to key players you already know and that are likely to say yes. Ask them what they think of the draft agenda and more importantly, ask if they would consider co-chairing a topic or two. Get their names up there.
4. Market Your Heroes
When you have a first couple of key players onboard it's time to get the buzz started. Tweet about it. Blog about it. Talk about it. And make use of the heroes who are already booked.
5. Reach Out in Waves
Now you need to get key players onboard that you did not previously know. It's time consuming so I do it in waves. A good weekend with the right inspiration you can hunt down a few more of the people you need to get there, explain the agenda and who else is going. Make use of your network and CC people who might be able to vouch for your workshop. As soon as you get people hooked ask if they want to be involved.
6. Have Faith
A lot of the so called key players are very busy. You may have gotten a confirmation four weeks ago but not heard anything since. Just make sure you send them updates every other week anyway. They'll come. Have faith.
7. Work Onsite
At the workshop you need to tend to practical stuff. I think I was the only session chair who cleaned all the tables up on stage before my sessions. Fresh blocks of paper, new water glasses, no garbage. Also make sure you have an announcement up on the big screen and walk around reminding people that it's only 10 minutes to you session. Do not underestimate what this kind of lightweight service can do for your session.