Packing for a Conference and Other Wily Tricks

Fellow-blogger Sue Waters cry for help on how to organise herself for a conference trip, evoked a stream of advice and tips. I couldn’t wait to join the queue ready to tell her how to reduce travel-anxiety, make lists, pack the right stuff, and arrive unflustered, have a great conference, and leave with everything (including mobile bits and bobs and her sanity) intact.

I was so impressed with what I fired off in response, that I thought I’d expand the comment into a full-blown post.

This is the expanded gist of what I sent to Sue.

My life is pretty much run via lists, and I find you can’t beat pen and paper. Put a copy of the list of stuff you are taking inside your suitcase, so you don’t forget anything when you leave. Alternatively, make a master list in your notebook for reference.

Sue takes notes on presentations on a wiki or via Google docs for later blogging. I use a dedicated-conference notebook for this, and follow up with a later post. I suppose I am in transition from paper to digital … maybe I’ll always like the pen on paper experience, but I like to have my scratchings to refer to, to cross-check, and for backup, should things crash. I use a separate notebook for each project. Right now I’m using Moleskine small and large cahier notebooks. Moleskines are so well designed, so darned sexy, and they do make me feel like one of the in-crowd.

Check and recheck all your equipment (spare batteries are a good idea). It’s really important not to forget all the right connection tools (cables, VGAs etc) if you are using your laptop. Get a bag and keep all your connectors, cables etc. in it. This will save you a lot of angst if you have a non-standard Mac, for example, as I do (12″ G4 Powerbook which needs mini-connectors). I love my little 12″ by the way. It’s been conferencing round the world with me, and is small enough to sit snugly in a generous -sized handbag. (See below your ‘Best Travelling Companion.’) They’ll probably have to pry it from my fingers when it finally dies, or I go over to the new MacBook Pro lineup one day … one day …

Make friends with the tech guys at the conference. This is really important if you are giving a presentation. Be nice anyway. They tend to be the unsung heroes of these gatherings and do appreciate recognition. They also have great insider information and tips … and maybe spare cables and connectors if you have forgotten yours.

If the conference organisers get it right and there is wireless broadband, it’s bliss, otherwise pain, expensive pain at a conference like this. (Sue was going to an e-learning conference).

Take photos with your mobile and backup on Flickr for distribution and access if you are able to. This can be an expensive exercise, depending on your carrier’s plan. A small point and shoot camera is just as good, but don’t forget the connector cable or card reader. The gadgets mount up, don’t they?

Re Twitter, put your contact details on the conference noticeboard when you get there and ask other users to join in. I’m intrigued at how Twitter would work at a conference. Do the same with your blogsite. Will there be a conference blog? Interesting potential if there is. I sense the arrival of live blogging into the conference arena. PS 3 years later … did I ever get this right! 🙂

By the way, is it just me, or would it be a good idea for conference organisers to facilitate some kind of pre-conference listing of delegates with contact info. In this way the Twits and bloggers can link up and get prepped.

If you are giving a presentation, have it on your desktop and backed up on a USB stick. I even keep mine on a server out there, just in case. By the way, if you have a blog, get the URL printed on your business card and distribute freely.

Take a generous-sized handbag and think of it as your ‘Best Travelling Companion.’ Yes, this is the one item for the traveller, that can provide the most delight or the most angst. Girls, I know you know what I mean.



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One response to “Packing for a Conference and Other Wily Tricks”

  1. Christine Martell Avatar
    Christine Martell

    Perfect timing Kate. I have so needed all these tips with all the conferences I’ve been speaking at. Sounds like we are on parallel paths right now.

    I also love my 12″ Powerbook. I have spilled an entire cup of coffee on it, so it has cancer inside as a result. I have bounced it off a concrete airport floor, so it has a bashed in corner. Yet it keeps chugging along. I too will really miss it when it finally dies.

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