Now this isn’t a post about what shoes (flats, sandals or boots dependent on weather, something for the party), or sequined tops, or linen pants, or jeans, or sundresses to pack.
It’s not about why you shouldn’t be nervous (because everyone is nervous). Or about how to leave an impression (a just-released camera comes on very handy, as does flying in only hours before the sessions begin, or living in a country far away from where said conference is being held). Or what to say to complete strangers during morning tea.
It is however a list of must-haves for the conference sessions, those little things that make or break a day, because you don’t want to be the one repeating over and over again, “sorry I don’t have business cards yet… ” while your phone dies mid-tweet.
Top 10: Items to Take to a Conference
1. Business cards
This one is pretty self explanatory, you’ll meet people who will want to remember who you are. Get cards with current info (name, blog name, url and social media handles at the very least) and take more of them than you think you’ll need. Make sure to have something to put all the cards you get from others into as well.
Phone, tablet, laptop, camera. Charge everything at night then take the most important chargers with you to the sessions too. I can’t promise you will find an open powerpoint but you don’t want to be asking everyone in sight if you can borrow their charger.
3. Something for note taking
Whether your style is a shiny new tablet or a good old paper notebook, make sure to take whatever makes you comfortable. No one wants to be scribbling the hottest tip they’ve ever heard on the back of a goodie bag flyer that gets tossed in the bin by mistake. In a pinch a phone is great but the small keypad can get annoying if there is lots of good info. Be prepared to come home with a list of things you should be/need to be/want to be doing, remember to look at the list more than once. Even if you are a tablet person make sure you have a pen… you never know when you’ll need a pen.
As a food blogger I have no less than one (and usually three) cameras on me at any point in time — but for most people a phone is usually enough. Just make sure you clean out your photos before you go so there is room for new ones. Note to self, clean out photos while on the plane.
There will be food, there is always food — but it is not always good, or something you can eat, or there when your blood sugar drops. Even something as simple as a small bag of nuts or some Macadamia & Coconut Granola in your bag will come in very handy. I always travel with tea bags too — because I’m a bit odd like that — if I can find good tea, great, if not I know I’m covered come 10 am.
6. Sweater or wrap
It gets cold in conference rooms, really cold. And the warmer it is outside the higher the air conditioning is inside. A thin jumper or pashmina that fits in your bag will be a lifesaver.
7. Mints or breath strips
Long days and conference food, no matter how good it is, can result in some pretty funky breath. You could always drop a travel toothbrush and toothpaste in your bag, but a pack of Listerine strips will save you every time.
8. A list of people you want to talk to
People you know on twitter but have never met in person, people you haven’t seen since the previous year, people you’ve admired and would like to meet in person, whatever. Without a list of some kind of list you’re bound to miss out on quality face-time with someone you’ve been looking forward to seeing.
9. A good bag
A clutch will never do, but go too big and suddenly you’ll turn into Mary Poppins pulling out lamps and shoes and spoons when all you want is a pen. A solid mid-sized bag with pockets or dividers means you can throw everything in without worrying about leaving a trail of cards and lost phones in your wake. While we’re on the subject of bags, depending on the conference you may want to bring an extra suitcase for your swag, but that’s another topic for another post.
10. A smile
Yes it’s cheesy and something your grandmother would say, but it’s true. Walking up to a random group of strangers (or a fan-girl crush) when you don’t know a soul is much easier if you are smiling when you do it. A nervous smile is perfectly acceptable and if they don’t smile back simply fake a coughing fit, excuse your self and find a friendlier group.
Now relax and have fun
I figure as long as I can learn at least two new things and meet one new person it’s worth the trip.
I’d love to know any other top tips you have too!
Make the lock screen of your phone a picture of your business card — or at the very least your blog name and email address. If you do leave it somewhere there is a better chance the person who finds it will get it back to you.
Stick a business card in the back (or front) of your conference badge. I can’t even tell you the number of times a blank look at my name has changed to one of recognition when they see my logo.