Pack Your Bags for a Conference

Summer seems to be a busy conference season, at least for folks like me, who don't regularly attend work-related meetings through-out the year.  I've received registration info for conferences for my sorority, state PTA, and Mocha Moms, in addition to the trade shows for wool and yarn (yes, there is such a thing), books, and scrapbooking.  And I know others have headed off to to other sorority conferences, Jack & Jill, BlogHer12, home business companies, and who knows what else.  So for all of those folks, who may not do this on a regular basis, I'll share some of my tips, gleaned from my couple conferences a year, and tagging along every now and then to a trade show with my husband. 

Shoes, shoes, comfortable shoes!  I admit, picking out a good pair of shoes could top any list I happen to write (what to take on vacation, what to consider first in an outfit, how to spend your tax refund), but for a conference, this is an important one.  Conference center floors are hard - they are concrete and no, despite what you think you remember, they are not carpeted - and the centers themselves are huge.  Even if you insist that you've got to wear cute shoes during the conference sessions (understood), be sure to carry comfortable walking shoes for when those heels have had it.  You don't have to go straight to the sneakers that will mess up your look, go with a nice ballet slipper or loafer, depending on your outfits.  A tangential note: if you are not staying at the conference hotel, stay somewhere in walking distance so you don't have to rely on the conference shuttle, which can often have a long wait.

Business cards and/or address labels.  For a mom like me, I don't have work-related business cards, but when I go out to a conference, I don't want to jot my name and number on a program cover or scrap of paper when I meet someone who could be a good contact.  Use an online printer, like VistaPrint, or local office supply store, like Staples or Kinko's, to get simple, low cost calling cards printed - pretty designs, all the basic info.  (At home, I also tuck them into my kids backpacks when they go to school or on a fieldtrip.)  Also consider purchasing blank cards at the office supply store and printing your own if you don't need a lot or are creative like that.  The address labels?  For those mailing list sign-up sheets at various vendors because I'm lazy in writing my contact info.  Use those free sheets you get in the mail from charities or make custom ones on your home printer.

Luggage tag.  If your conference is giving out bags, as most do, you will then be carrying the same bag as the other hundred or thousands of folks there with you.  And someone will invariably pick up the wrong bag.  Identify your bag with a unique luggage tag, a keychain, a strap cover, or something.  Forgot to bring one?  Pick up a give-away from a vendor, paperclip some doo-dad to the handle. Admittedly, I usually forget this step, and end up tying some yarn (which I always have) onto one of my handles.  At my sorority conference, one member said that she always carries the same bag - a different sorority bag - so that she can always identify her bag and its obvious that its not anyone else's bag, in addition, its personalized with her name.

A shawl or cardigan.  You've been there - movie theatre, restaurant, meeting, friend's house - and the air condition is all the sudden on blast and you're freezing.  Throw a light cover in your bag so you're ready for the change in temperature.  Carry a neutral color to match everything, or your bright favorite color just because it makes you happy.

Chargers.  We're all so digital and electronic now - cameras, phones, tablets, iPods.  And don't we all hate seeing that red battery or "low battery" signal while we're away from home.  Carry your chargers with you to the conference; you can always find somewhere to charge back up and some meeting places even have lounges specifically for that purpose.  I carry all my electronics in this pouch so they are easy to find.

Snacks.  I am a snacker, check my bag any day and you are likely to find a bag of trailmix or nuts or an energy bar in there.  For conferences, this is a definite, because when I'm hungry, I get really impatient if there's a long line at the snack bar or if they've run out of what I want by the time I get to the counter.

Coffee.  Ahhh, caffeine.  I carry instant coffee, not my favorite option at home, or bottled, pre-made Starbucks, it comes in handy when you are among thousands of folks, all trying to get a cup of coffee within the same 10 minutes before the meeting session starts.  It's a back-up to the coffee that should've been in my room or hotel lobby and if I can't get to the coffee shop a block from the conference, which is most likely emptier then the counter near the meeting space.

Lipgloss.  I read that this is Beyonce's favorite low-maintenance make-up when she's got to run out of the house, along with a pair of sunglasses.  I'm amazed at the difference a swipe of gloss will make on your otherwise, tired, make-up-less face.  So I've got one in my make-up bag, one in my purse, and throw one in a conference bag, just to be sure.

 A couple conferences a year isn't too many, but its just few enough to knock you out of a routine of what to take with you.  Maybe this will help you jog your memory.  If I've left off any must-haves, let me know.


Mommyx4 at - "like" me on FaceBook - Just Piddlin' with Frances