A few weeks ago, I attended my 10th conference in 3 years (my favorite of which is the photo featured in this post, BlogHer Creators Summit). I’ve learned a few tricks after going to that many conferences and today I wanted to share some of my personal tips for these fun, but busy events.
- Lots (and lots) of business cards. Whether it’s for networking or entering the MANY raffles that are offered at company booths, you will burn through your business cards fast. Bring more than you think you need because it’s always better to have extra than not enough!
- Shoes that are comfortable to walk in ONLY. I learned this lesson early after wearing heels to my very first conference. You will easily take over 10,000 steps each day of the conference and if I you don’t wear shoes that are comfortable and of course still professional, it will be painful.
- A mini stapler, You will receive tons of papers from different booths and/or sessions throughout the conference. You can make your life easier when the conference is over by stapling similar papers together either at the conference or the end of each day.
- A portable charger. Whether you’re using a conference app, taking notes on your phone, or checking email, you will likely be on your phone enough that the battery will get low. Put this one at the top of your must list and thank yourself later!
- Laptop and charger. You will have breaks in the day where answering work email will be possible. Having your laptop and charging cable will be a great way to ensure you make the most of those moments.
- Extra pens. Having your pen die when you’re taking notes is the worst! Make sure this doesn’t happen to you and have back-ups. Booths will have tons of free pens to hand out, so it’s highly likely you’ll only need extras for earlier sessions.
- Mailing stickers. Now this one might seem odd, but stick with me for a minute. One of my favorite networking tips is to write notes on the back of a person’s business card as soon as you walk away. Jot down super specific things like what you talked about, what they were wearing, where you spoke, and any action items you need to remember. I use this advice constantly, but I’ve also learned that some cards aren’t easy to write on. But if you put a mailing sticker on the back of the card, taking notes won’t be an issue at all!
- Notebook. This one seems pretty obvious, but make sure you have something to take notes in–and to keep everything in one place. Having your thoughts organized, will make your life easier when you get home from the conference.
- Highlighter. Speaking of notes, you will take TONS of them. I suggest writing down the name of the session, speaker, time, and day at the top of each new section of notes and highlighting at least the name of the session, so you can easily see where notes for one session begins and another ends.
While knowing what to bring is important, knowing what to do is important as well! Here are a few bonus tips for attending conferences:
- Have a case for your business cards. Investing in a business card holder will make your life easier at a conference and beyond. You can get one for less than $10 and it will be well worth the investment. Just make sure it’s small enough to have in your pockets at all times when you head to a conference.
- Put some of your own business cards in the back of your badge. On top of storing your cards in your business card holder in your pocket, it’s also helpful to keep some of your business cards in the back of your badge, if it’s in a plastic holder like this. This gives you quick access to your cards versus fumbling around in your bag and will make you look like an organized pro.
- Prepare an answer to the question “What are you attending this conference?” You will be asked this question more times that you can count. Have a quick, succinct answer ready to go–and a question ready to ask too!
- Prepare a question to ask others. You will will be doing a lot of networking at this conference, so set yourself apart by having a question ready for conversations. Two of my favorites “What was your favorite session today?” and “Who has been your favorite speaker so far?”
- Leave room in your suitcase for papers and such for the trip home. You will receive a tons of papers, prizes, and conference paraphernalia throughout your trip. Be prepared by leaving room in your suitcase or mailing things home from the FedEx center that is likely in the conference center.
- Have a system for notes versus action items. I always start notes with a bullet and to-do’s with a box so I can write in a check mark when the item is done. Having a system like this will help you differentiate things you wanted to remember versus things you need to do when you get back to the office.