Top 5 tips for surviving a conference

June 12, 2014

Conferences. Whether you are going for work, for fun, or something in between—they are a part of life. But for better or for worse, it’s not like a 6-12-14regular day in the office! You’ll likely be walking plenty, in a huge room with tons of people, in a climate you can’t control. The food will probably be scarce and overpriced, and there is never enough caffeine. Like everything, with a little planning you will survive your conference and maybe even learn something new!

Here are my tips:

Dress smart. In my experience conference halls are always either freezing or boiling, never much in the middle. Thus, layers are the best way to stay comfortable. Make sure your underlayer is appropriate in case you have to lose your sweater. I also always keep a pashmina in my bag in case the room is cold.

Comfortable shoes. Conferences are usually synonymous with huge hotels or convention halls. You may have to walk close to a mile just to get to the location (especially if you’re in Vegas as so many conferences are). Comfortable shoes are a must, otherwise you will be crying by the end of the day. If you have to wear heels, slip some flats or flip-flops in your bag for the commute (Pictured: Havaianas—the best flip flops in the world.). Your feet will thank you!

Snacks and water. Why is it that the speaker right before lunch is the most long-winded person in the world? Plus, once you get out you have to compete with a thousand other people for that one lunch spot. You never know when you’ll get to eat again! Keep snacks like nuts, a protein bar, fruit, or maybe even some Dove Darks handy so you won’t go light headed from hunger before you get to eat.

Electronics. Of course you will want to take notes (or FaceBook. I won’t judge.)during the conference, but your laptop can’t keep up with the constant use! Make sure to have all of the chargers you need—don’t leave any behind in the hotel room, because without fail that will be the one you need. Want to be the most popular person there? Bring a power strip. If you have a portable charger, bring that too. Tip: Scope out the plugs as you’re walking in so you know where to go when you need a charge.

Plan for sickness. Of course no one ever expects to feel bad, but it could happen. Minimize the impact of illness by keeping some medicine on hand. At a conference last year at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas I got a blinding headache. The Home Warrior hiked across probably two miles of casino, with a baby, to bring me some ibuprofen. Now I always keep ibuprofen and Pepto in my purse. I also have Emergen-C—there is never enough coffee available, and Emergen-C will get me through the post lunch slump.

Bonus tip: Don’t be embarrassed to use a rolling briefcase. It will hold everything you need, plus conference freebies, and not hurt your shoulder. Win!

Readers, how often do you go to conferences? What are your best survival tips?                           

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  1. DaninSTL said,

    Watch the carb intake is my best advice. Fast absorbing carbs like bread and pastries will lead to blood sugar crash halfway through the next session. That’s whey many get sleepy after lunch. Stick to proteins and slower to absorb carbs like fruit instead of candy.

  2. Nneka, Working Mystic said,

    Give yourself permission to sit out a session. The point of the conference is for you to acquire information that you can implement when you get home. When you’re on information overload, you’re not absorbing any more info. It’s the law of diminishing returns.

  3. Sylvia said,

    bring lots of business cards and have some sort of elevator pitch!

  4. Audrey Suzan Garnatz said,

    I cannot agree with you enough on packing your own snacks! Especially if you have food allergies – waiting for them to fish out your special meal (if they even have one) can take what seems like an eternity!

  5. joanheminway said,

    Loved these! I agree with all of them. Here are a few additions.

    As a sinus sufferer, I also keep decongestants with me. Airborne in my tote has saved me from almost certain illness, so it stays with me on conference trips. And I have found that a small tube of antibiotic ointment with a grouping of band aids also is very useful.

    Protein and meal replacement bars, as well as powdered drink mix and a water bottle, got me through almost 24 hours when I got caught in Boston during the Nemo blizzard last year. (Yeah, I know. My husband calls me a survivalist . . . .)

    In the summer, I swap out the pashmina for a linen or silk/cashmere scarf.

    And Havaianas are KEY. I own them in almost every color in the rainbow, thanks to a recommendation from a colleague and a few summers teaching in Brazil.

    many thanks for this!

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