Guild Tips: What’s in our conference bag

With the FocusOn Learning Conference just around the corner you might already be thinking about what you’ll need to bring along with you each day to make the experience as smooth as possible. It’s a tricky balance: you don’t want skip bringing something you’ll end up desperately needing, but you also don’t want to drag your whole office along with you all day.

While everyone’s perfect conference bag is a little bit different, here are a few tips about what we find useful to have along and what we never regret leaving at home:

What’s one unusual thing you always make sure to pack in your conference bag?

David Kelly: A pack of AAA batteries. Between presenter remotes, my wireless mouse, noise cancelling headsets and more, I carry a lot of devices that use AAA batteries. I have been burned by a dead battery on more than a few occasions… but no more. :)

Mark Britz: Extra mobile device power cords. Over the years I’ve just hung on to numerous cords for my iPhones and Android devices. Inevitably there is someone in need and being light weight and barely taking up any room, I’m always in a position to help out.

Bianca Woods: Granola bars. I’m not a morning person, so trying to fit in a proper breakfast before early sessions just isn’t going to happen. Carrying a quick breakfast with me helps me speed up my morning (plus it’s a good way to save some cash if you’re covering your own expenses).

What’s one thing you’re sure to bring to get the most out of your conference experience?

David: I’d say my smartphone, but that may be a bit too easy of an answer, so instead I’ll say… the portable charger for my smartphone. Between tweeting, taking pictures, connecting through the conference app, and yes… taking calls, I go through multiple charges on my phone a day. And while I’m glad events have charging stations for devices, the truth is I’m on the move almost constantly at an event, so having power that travels with me is a must.

Mark: I’d say my portable charger primarily, but since David’s already reminded you of that I’ll go analog and note my business cards. I am infamous for not having them and always being asked for one. So NOW they are a sure to bring. I meet so many people in passing and its still the preferred method of connection for many. When I give, I get and when I’m given, I give. I scan them in to Evernote later and they always serve to prompt me to reach out to folks well after the event and keep the connection alive.

Bianca: A Bluetooth keyboard for my iPad. It makes livetweeting events and catching up on work email so much easier. Plus, they hold a charge forever, so I don’t even have to worry about it running out of juice part way through the conference.

What’s something people would be surprised to find you don’t tend to bring along?

David: Business cards. Don’t get me me wrong, I do bring them to events, but I am regularly caught without them on my person. This happens for two reasons. First, they’re in my bag. If I don’t have my bag with me, chances are I don’t have business cards with me. Second, and more importantly… it’s 2016. I prefer to leverage the technology we all have with us. When someone asks me for my business card I will usually ask them to send me a quick email right away. The email becomes a built-in follow up when I get back to the office, and it usually contains context that I may not remember when just looking at a stack of business cards I collected.

Mark: An iPad or laptop (unless I’m presenting).  I can do so much work on my phone and I prefer to travel light.  All my apps for note taking, photo needs and processing, and access to networks I like to share with are available at the ready. I’ve even tweaked my own slides hours before a presentation via my phone.

Bianca: A pen. I don’t think I’ve ever used one during any conference I’ve been to and yet for years I used to have a few along, just in case. Of course, now that I’ve publicly stated I’m not bringing a pen along, you just know this will be event where I actually need one.

So those are some of our “must have” and “must skip” conference bag contents. Do you have other items you’ve found useful (or useless) at a conference? Be sure to add them to the comments! And if you haven’t already, check out last’s week’s Guild Tips post on things to do to get the most out of a conference.

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