10 Things to Bring to a Conference

On Sunday, I leave for Dreamforce, the world’s largest Cloud Computing event. It’s my third Dreamforce and I go to other conferences throughout the year, so I’ve made a few hits and mistakes along the way. With Dreamforce being the biggest, longest and most exciting conference in my book, I make sure to start it off right by packing well. Whether you’re going to Dreamforce or not, here’s what I’ve learned to bring to conferences.

1. Comfortable clothes

Business casual is the norm at conferences, but make sure it’s comfortable. There’s a lot of walking, bag-carrying, sitting, standing, and networking. For each and every moment, you want to perform your best. I spring for a few pairs of comfortable flats that still look professional but get me through hours on my feet. For Dreamforce, I’m bringing my Yosi Samra loafers.

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2. A good bag

I bring my laptop everywhere so I use a cross-body, sling bag from Belkin to comfortably carry that laptop for hours. It also protects my computer, and gives me easy access to my phone and business cards. Timbuk2 makes good bags too.

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4. Business cards

You’ll never have enough business cards, so bring a stack. Have them readily available to hand out. When you get other people’s cards, keep them in a separate spot. I also write a note on the back of each card I collect to remind me of a next step or why I got their card in the first place. With so many people and so many cards, you sometimes need that reminder.

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5. Flair

Conferences bring together a group of like-minded people and if we’re all wearing business casual, how can you stand out? I bring something fun or unique to wear. It’s a way to be identifiable and a great conversation starter. For instance, bring funky socks, a silly pin, unique jewelry or a blouse with toucans on it. I pair this top from H&M with a blazer.

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6. Hygiene Essentials

This is separate from what you leave in your hotel bathroom. Bring a small brush, some make up, hand sanitizer (you will be amongst crowds of strangers in small conference rooms) and any other necessary item to freshen up halfway through the day. Conferences have long days and are often made up of two parts – the educational daytime and the networking events in the evening. Sometimes you won’t be able to go back to your hotel and change or freshen up, so come prepared.

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7. Back up battery

You’ll be using your phone and/or tablet a lot during the conference, so bring an extra battery if you don’t have time to sit by a wall charger. Mophies are great, but expensive. I use my $10 Takashi charger from Christmas Tree Shop, and it’s worked well.

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8. Notepad

Tablets and laptops are great for taking notes, but if they run out of juice or you’re in a standing-room only situation, sometimes the notepad is the best way to go. Oftentimes I prefer my notepad for notes and my phone for Tweeting and sharing content. Then I get back to my hotel room later and type up my notes. I like Moleskine or Poppin, like the one below.

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9. Snacks

Food comes in waves at conferences including breakfast, lunch and snack (dinners are usually up to the attendees or held at specific 0ff-site events). If you’re tied up in sessions or meetings during these waves, you’ll likely miss a meal. Bring power bars, trail mix or granola bars to keep you energized while you’re on the move. It will hold you over until the next wave of food.

10. Reusable water bottle

Although conferences typically have water and coffee stations throughout the event, the vessels are often cups. This makes it hard for you to constantly stay hydrated and drink on the go. Bring a strong, lightweight, reusable water bottle, such as a Nalgene, and fill up often.

What other items do you pack for conferences? Share your ideas here.

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