Shannon Tipton over at Learning Rebels did a great post titled, “What’s in My Conference Bag? ATD ICE 2018”. It’s a nice reminder to help you plan your conference strategy. Since the next big event I’m attending is the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Annual Conference, I thought I’d create my own list.
Here are the top ten things I take with me when I travel to conferences.
- The “bag”.I will admit, I rarely carry the official conference bag. But I do bring with me a backpack or tote that will sufficiently hold my conference stuff. It needs to be comfortable to walk around with and durable. I have a classic black Vera Bradley tote that holds up well and just recently purchased a Hershel backpack that’s nice to carry. PRO TIP: If you’re new to conferences, let me tell you . . . you don’t have to take everything a vendor wants to hand you. Ask them to scan your badge and send you the information you want. Trust me, they will.
- iPhone and iPad.I like having the flexibility of more than one device. Especially if I’m planning to do a lot of typing. The smart cover for my iPad is terrific. Oh, and make sure you download the SHRM conference app ahead of time. While there will be WiFi at the convention center, it won’t be like your home or office WiFi.
- Charger, cords and plug. Yes, I know this is low-hanging fruit, but I’m amazed at the number of people who don’t do it. They have the cord, but no plug. Or the charger and no cord. I just purchased an Anker portable charger which does a great job. And I love this Belkin rotating plug. It allows me to share an outlet with friends.
- Business cards. Sometimes you meet someone at the event don’t have time to chat but want to stay in touch. Grab their business card then connect with them on LinkedIn. Always, always, always have a handful of business cards available. PRO TIP: Don’t have business cards? There’s still time to order a nice MOO Card with your contact info and they will arrive in time for the conference.
- Notebook. As much as I love technology, I also like taking notes on paper. There’s some research that shows writing things down can be the key to remembering important information. So, I love it when vendors provide a small Moleskine type notebook. PRO TIP: I like to tuck a Fedex shipping label in my notebook so I can mail home books, swag, vendor materials, etc.
- Pens and highlighters. There’s nothing better than writing with a nice pen. That doesn’t mean it has to be expensive. It just means nice. ‘nuf said.
- Water bottle. In an effort to be more eco-aware, I try to take water bottles with me versus buying bottled water onsite. It’s also great for my budget. My new go-to is S’well or those like it. It keeps beverages cold and has a secure lid.
- Insta-beverages. You guys know I’m a tea person and good tea is hard to find on the road. So, I bring tea bags with me. I also stocked up on matcha chai singles during Teavana’s close out sales. That way when I want some caffeine, but the coffee shop lines are too long…I’m covered.
- Snack. Along the same line of having a beverage option ready, I also try to have some sort of snack. If the lines are too long for lunch or the lunch options don’t appeal to me, I’ll have a protein bar or some trail mix for lunch. It takes off the edge and I’ll just have an early dinner.
- Something to pass the time. There are moments when I’m just waiting – maybe before a general session, or for a bus back to the hotel, or I just want a few moments to myself. I try to have something that serves as a little distraction. Something fun like Sudoku or Neko Atsume. There’s no rule that we have to learn all the time.
Going to conferences is educational, inspirational, and at times, just plain fun. But it helps to be prepared. SHRM Annual is a large event. This isn’t one of those, “Oh, I forgot that…let me pop over to my room and get it.” So, plan ahead and have a wonderful time.12