Preparing For Your First (or 50th) Conference

On Wednesday I am heading down to beautiful Asheville, NC for the Type-A Parent (formerly Type-A Mom) conference. This technically counts as my 8th conference or blogger speaking event. Wow! And you know what? I still do not have it down. Each time I get ready to go to one I get nervous. I usually forget to pack something important. I lose sleep. LOL!

And once I am there, it is easy to get overwhelmed. This is especially true of large conferences. So, how can you truly be ready? Well, prepare ahead of time. Here are a few tips:

Have a Packing List

Clothing: Of course this is true for any trip that you go on. I have a system when it comes to packing personal items such as clothes. I start at the bottom of my body and work my way up, then when I double check I do it in the reverse. So, this would start feet, legs, butt area, chest, head, etc. Here is a list:

  1. Comfy Shoes
  2. Dressy Shoes – in case you have a dinner or something to attend
  3. Socks
  4. Pants/skirts/shorts
  5. Underwear
  6. Shirts/sweaters, etc. – Definitely bring a sweater! Those banquet halls are always freezing.
  7. Bra(s)
  8. Deordorant
  9. Toothbrush
  10. Toothpaste
  11. Floss
  12. Soap – Hotel soap sucks
  13. Jewelry
  14. Hair stuff
  15. Makeup – if you wear it. :)
  16. UPDATE 6/21 – Don’t forget glasses, contacts, contact solution, and eyeglass cases and cleaner. :)

Then do it all again from the top down! Oh, and if you are flying be sure that all of your liquid/gel, etc. are in airport approved sized containers (3 oz or less), or larger items are in your check-in.

Electronics: You have to have all your gadgets or you will certainly feel out of touch! Last year when attending Type-A I had forgotten my laptop charger, so I had to purchase one that cost way too much. Doh! So, here is what you need:

  1. Laptop –  Although I have seen some do it, I would not rely just on a tablet for taking notes, tweeting, etc. at a conference. Although possible, multitasking is a challenge. At least have a real laptop waiting in your room for late night blogging binges.
  2. Laptop charger
  3. External mouse – of course if you are fine with your touchpad, then good. But I work best on my laptop with an external wireless mouse.
  4. Camera (Do NOT rely on your cellphone for pictures!)
  5. Video camera: Flip or otherwise. It’s fun to grab some interviews with attendees, or record your own session for promo reels.
  6. Camera Charger
  7. Smartphone/Cellphone
  8. Earpiece (Bluetooth or earphones) – for making calls
  9. Phone charger
  10. Memory card for camera
  11. iPod – Flying? Don’t forget your tunes!!
  12. iPod adapter –  For playing in the car if you are driving
  13. Batteries –  if your camera is not rechargeable, or for your external flash if you use an SLR
  14. External storage – If you keep important files on a USB drive of some sort, do not forget it.
  15. A good bag – Carrying stuff around can be heavy, so I recommend a good backpack or at least a bag with heavy padded shoulder straps. Put everything you need in there and ditch the purse in your room
  16. Portable charger – If you do not have one already, consider getting a portable charger like an iGo Charge Anywhere. I have said before that thing stays in my bag. I also have a Mophie Juice Pack Plus on my iPhone 4.
  17. Mobile Hotspot –  If you have one, bring it. Although all conferences provide free wireless, sometimes that signal is spotty at best because so many people are trying to connect. So, bring your own as a backup if you are able.

Other stuff: There is always some other stuff that you need to complete your mobile office and otherwise.

  1. Business cards – Have a lot. If you forgot to order them, some places like Staples will do a rush job although the paper quality is not that great.
  2. Something to Store Business Cards that you Collect – You will get a LOT of them!! I use random things, but let me tell you…I once lost my iPod for over 2 months because it slipped into the padded envelope that I was using to store biz cards at a conference. LOL!!!
  3. Notepad – You will probably get one as swag, but bring one just in case
  4. Pens & Pencils – Gotta write some stuff!
  5. Empty Duffle Bag – Conferences have swag! Although you may not want or need all of it, stuff an extra duffle bag in your suitcase for bringing those items home. I have heard horror stories from some that tried to ship items home from a conference and they never made it. When I went to Blogalicious in Miami I had to buy an additional suitcase while there to bring home my swag plus a HOT pair of boots that I bought while there. And it helps if you can drive! Then you can bring home as much as stuff as you want without paying airline fees.

That is quite a list,  I know… but it’s all necessary! So, now that you are packed (and don’t wait until the last minute) what do you do?

 

Plan Your Attack

Scheduling – Check out the schedule and decide which sessions, parties, and events you will attend. Put reminders on your calendar now with locations (they should be on the conference schedule), so that you are not scrambling while there to figure out where you need to be.

Decide who you need to meet – This is hard. But, you are going to want to meet a lot of people. You will want to put faces to names and hug those that you have talked to on Twitter for months. Try to connect with the “must-meets” beforehand and get a cell phone number so that you can text to plan a meetup while there. You will run into a lot of people for sure. But, if you are at a conference with hundreds, you could walk right by your fav Twitter buddy and not even know it. Or, you may know exactly what they look like and not see them at all in all the madness.

 

Get There, Relax, Mingle, and Enjoy!

Yes, you want to get the most of out it. You want to learn to monetize, turn your blog into a business, learn great design and more. But, don’t forget to have fun! Bloggers are insane. Insane in a good way. You will laugh SO much!! Even if you don’t participate in every party or outing, do a couple. It feels great to relax and be social with your friends when you are not in a session. But, don’t over do it.  Some drink too much, then don’t remember that they embarrassed themselves the next day. HA!! Keep your composure. This is especially true if you are hoping to meet some brands.

I’m sure that as soon as I hit publish on this, I will remember something else. What advice do you have? What have you learned that might be specific to each conference? Or, if it is your first time, where are you headed?

 

See also:

Best Gadgets for Blogging on the Go

Keeping Your Gadgets Safe While Traveling

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12 Responses to Preparing For Your First (or 50th) Conference

  1. Thank you for your post. I am attending Blogalicious, which will be my first conference! This post has helped me tremendously!

  2. Love the list.. (of course). They make getting ready for conferences a piece of cake don’t they? 
    Have you found any good organizers for all the cords and adapters for travel? I’ve looked before and not really seem something that will work with all we all have. 

    • Sandy. I use a little zip up bag that actually came with an HP printer that I have. It’s like a really large makeup bag. Works great. I stuff everything in there.

  3. Great post! You’re right – I’ve been to a zillion conferences, but packing always feels like a new experience to tackle. See you soon :-)

  4. I loved the article because Type-A will be my first conference. But I read your bio and cannot get over the two sets of twins! Two?! I have trouble with two children. And I work hard at being prepared.

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