Flying to another city to attend a blog conference can be exciting because it means meeting old friends you've only ever met online. Not only that but they mean making lots of new friends, networking with sponsors and in some cases it can lead to new sources of revenue for your site.
While you're booking your travel and planning on how to save on conference expenses it can be easy to forget to pack everything you need for the conference. From clothes to tech gadgets to snacks to an extra bag for all the swag – there's a lot of stuff to remember. Today I thought I'd write out a list of what I consider to be some of the essentials when packing for a blog conference.
Essentials For The Conference
Here are a few things you'll probably need to remember when heading out to your conference.
- Business cards: When you're attending the conference and meeting new people, it's a good idea to have a bunch of business cards at hand. You can get some nice ones for extremely cheap via sites like Vistaprint or Moo.com.
- Cash and credit/debit cards: You might want to bring a little cash to buy souvenirs or things from exhibitors. Otherwise, use a good credit or debit card that you can use to track expenses.
- Envelope for receipts: Remember that a lot of blog conference expenses are tax deductible including your ticket, so save all those receipts for deductible expenses and claim them later!
- Conference ticket: Make sure you've printed out your ticket (if you need to) and have it handy when checking in at the registration table.
- Photo ID: Planning on getting drinks at the conference after party, or flying? You'll need a photo ID of some sort.
- Map/GPS/directions: If you plan on driving around while at the conference, or seeing the sites, having a GPS can be helpful.
- Hotel reservation confirmation: Print out that hotel reservation and confirmation number before leaving. Put it somewhere accessible.
- Airlineboarding pass: Make sure to check in and print out those boarding passes the night before you leave so you have them ready to go when you leave.
Mobile Gadgets To Bring
There are a lot of tech gadgets that you can bring with you to a conference, and depending on how light you need to pack, you may or may not want to bring some or all of these. For me I can usually fit all of this stuff into my carry-0n and personal laptop bag.
- Mobile phone: Gotta stay in touch with the folks at home right? Also great for taking quick notes, photos or for checking your conference schedule.
- Laptop/tablet: I bring my laptop to most sessions to take notes. Others may prefer to bring their Ipad or other note taking device. Beyond taking notes you may want to be checking conference Twitter hash tags during sessions, write up blog posts or check out the photos or video you took at the last session.
- Video camera: A lot of bloggers will do video at the sessions, or do interviews with other bloggers and company reps. It's a great place to get a lot of great video. Here's what you need to have a full blog video setup, but for me the essentials include a camera and external mic for good sound.
- Camera: I usually like to bring my nice DSLR camera to a couple of sessions and events to get pictures. Not everyone may need to do this, however.
- SD cards: Bring plenty of memory cards for your camera, video camera, tablet and other devices.
- Notebook & pen: Some people prefer to take notes with pen and paper.
- Surge protector/powerstrip: Consider bringing along a powerstrip to charge all of your assorted gadgets while you're in your room, or even while in session. I know I wished I had one last year while at FINCON. Here's a good portable powerstrip from Belkin that includes 3 outlets and a couple of USB charging ports.
- Charging cords: Don't forget your charging cords, you'll be using your devices a lot, and you don't want to run out of juice! You may even want to consider an extra battery pack for your devices.
- Wireless hotspot: Sometimes conference Wi-Fi can be really slow or go up and down. Having a wireless hotspot might be a decent alternative. If your phone doesn't do tethering you can buy a mobile hotspot from Virgin Mobile for anywhere from $50-$120, and then $35-55/month in the months you use it.
- Headphones: Nice to have if you want to wind down between sessions without being interrupted, or if you want to listen to some music or edit videos.
Software To Pre-Load And Bring
While you're at the conference you're going to be using your laptop, tablet, smartphone or other devices to do a lot of different things. Here are some programs and apps that might be helpful while at the conference.
- Note taking app or program: I tend to go old school and just take notes in notepad on my laptop. I'm starting to use Evernote more often, however, because I can categorize and tag my notes, take pictures of things going on with my smartphone and take pics of business cards and categorize them all. That and it's available on the web, on the desktop, via an app and on your tablet.
- Tweetdeck or Hootsuite pre-loaded with conference hash tags: One fun thing is to follow the conference chatter real time while you're at the conference. At FINCON last year, we were all tweeting updates while the panels spoke, making points about what they were saying, or tweeting out great quotes. Here are a few more tips for Twitter for bloggers from my breakout session at FINCON last year.
- Video editing software: Not a must unless you're planning on doing some video to post while you're at the conference. I already have Vegas Video on my laptop anyway, so I'm able to do some edits on the go.
- Conference scheduling app: A lot of conferences these days have apps for smartphones available that will show you the conference schedule, or you can even setup your own custom schedule to have with you so you don't miss any important sessions.
A a guy I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about what I was going to wear to conferences. I realize that for some people this is a bit more important, and worthy of spending a bit more time on. For me when it comes to clothing it's mainly about knowing what type of event it is, and what kind of dress is required. Professional conferences may require more formal dress, while some blog conferences are more casual when it comes to attire. For me I prefer to stay comfortable when I'm at the sessions, so beyond the obvious underwear and socks, here's what I pack.
- Comfortable clothes for sessions: Most of the conferences I attend aren't that formal, so I can wear comfortable clothes – jeans, t-shirt and a sweatshirt.
- Nice clothes for each day's evening mixers/events: Sometimes conferences will have mixers and private events that may require you to dress up a bit more. I like to pack a nice set of clothes for each night I may be going out.
- Nice shoes and comfortable shoes: I usually bring a pear of tennis shoes for the days, and a nicer set of shoes for the nights.
- T-shirt with your brand on it: Some people will wear a t-shirt with their brand printed on it, or the brand of one of their sponsors.
- Swimsuit/workout clothes: A lot of conferences will be at hotels with workout facilities and a pool. If you're considering using either, bring appropriate clothes.
- Pajamas: If you're staying with a roommate, you may want to bring a pair of pajamas. They might not appreciate your habit of sleeping in the nude.
- Assorted toiletries: Don't forget all your assorted toiletries from deodorant and shampoo, to a toothbrush and toothpaste.
While some conferences are really good about providing a ton of food and snacks for attendees, it may not always be enough, or the types of food choices you're looking for. Think about bringing along some of your own snacks and even some healthier alternatives. If you're particular about your diet, consider doing a quick shopping run in the area before the conference to get a few supplies.
If you're not too picky just eat the food provided by the conference, and bring along a little bit of cash and/or change for the vending machines.
Leaving Extra Space In Your Bag
One thing you may want to consider when packing is that it might be a good idea to leave a little bit extra room in your bag for the flight home, as conferences are known for giving out all sorts of swag. For example at FINCON last year most attendees came home with a bag full of swag (see photo). There were t-shirts, books, pens, stickers, bags and more. Leave some space in your suitcase, or bring along a small carry on bag that you can fill with swag to bring home.
Bring A Good Attitude And A Willingness To Learn!
Finally, remember to bring a good attitude to the conference, expecting to learn a ton and to creating lasting friendships that will enrich your life for years to come.
Good luck and have a great trip!
Have your own items that you think are essential to pack when going to a blog conference? Tell us your favorite items/gadgets/software/clothes to bring in the comments.