You’ve booked your conference (perhaps the Southeast Creative Summit), been practicing your handshake, and read How to Win Friends and Influence People – twice. The eve of your classes is upon you. You’re ready to learn all the things and network your face off.
Congratulations, you’ve prepared yourself well. But have you prepared yourself for yourself? You can’t learn if you aren’t comfortable, and you won’t want to be social if you’re grumpy. Don’t forget to check your own checklist for creature comforts.
1. Plan workshops ahead of time. Print out the schedule grid (because you can’t rely on smartphone data service in cavernous conference centers) and circle the sessions you are most interested in attending. Prioritize them. If one is too full or not what you wanted, you already have your second or third choice in hand without thinking.
2. Bring a sweater or something. Hotels and conference centers are notoriously frigid.
3. Have a snack stash. The nearest food available might be expensive or icky or have a long line. You might get caught up talking to a colleague or presenter instead of eating lunch. Now it’s afternoon and you’re hungry. Protein bars, fruit, and water are good to have on hand just in case you need a blood sugar boost. At larger conferences, water is a particularly hot commodity, so bringing a refillable bottle is even better.
4. Pack your chargers — phone and/or laptop. But especially phone chargers. Because you’re going to want to do a lot of social media sharing (right?) and you don’t want a dead battery before you can add your new BFF on Twitter.
5. Don’t forget the little things: business cards if you’re into that, chapstick, contact solution, hand sanitizer, medication, gum, whatever. Throw it all in a backpack and you’ll be prepared so you won’t have to skip a session to go to your room or a store. Don’t pack your life, but think more than 20 seconds about stuff you probably want to have with you.
I made a new friend at a conference once by being prepared. He tweeted with the conference hashtag, asking if anyone had any aspirin. I tweeted back that I did. Now we’re married. Just kidding, I think he still follows me though.
6. Paper and pens are often much better than trying to bring a computer and type notes. Either way, good to have a backup plan for taking notes if technology forsakes you. (Bonus note: unless the workshop is built for following along, don’t try to follow along with software demonstrations. You’ll get lost and distracted.)
7. Don’t bring things that are annoying. Loud things to eat, stuff that smells weird (food or perfume), junk that takes up a lot of space. Be courteous, it’s not like you’re going to the rainforest.
Make a list and assure you haven’t forgotten any minor essentials that will help enhance your conference experience. If you’re attending the Southeast Creative Summit this weekend, come tell me what I forgot to put on this list. And if you aren’t already registered, you still can! Discounted full passes are available (with code creativecow2013), or you can attend just one day.