My Conference Packing List is Now Yours, Too

Off to another conference!
Off to another conference!

No sooner had I made my plane reservations this morning for the first conference I’ll be attending this year (a week in New Orleans this April with 800 or so professional organizers who, believe it or not, know how to party), than my friend Jodi Womack published her conference packing list . I’ve been sharing my list for a long time, and Jodi is a super-organized lady who’s been honing her checklist for many years, so it was fun to see how close our lists come to one another. Jodi added a handy list of apps, so I took inspiration from her post and made my own short list of must-have travel apps.

So here it is. My ever-evolving list of stuff to pack and things to do to prepare for conferences. Feel free to make it your own. And if I missed something you think is essential, leave a comment below.

Conference Prep Checklist

To Bring:

  • Business Cards // There’s nothing worse than running out, so don’t skimp. Check your v-card, too, so you can share digitally.
  • Flyers  // If you  have something coming up that you’d like to promote, be prepared to do it now. Slide flyers into a sheet protector or a large Ziploc bag to keep corners unmangled.
  • Notebook // Make the first page  a list of actions you’ll take and changes you’ll make. It’s easier to find and add them to your task list when they’re not scattered through three day’s worth of notes.
  • Pens + pencils // Though most conference venues stock extras, it’s good to take your favorites.
  • Stationery // I usually take a stash of blank greeting cards and envelopes for thank-yous and follow-ups. I rarely use them before I get home (too tired, plane too bumpy, insert excuse here.) But maybe this time…
  • Chargers // I like to keep chargers in labeled Ziploc bags. It keeps cords untangled, and if your bag labeled “phone charger” is empty when you go to check out, visit all your room’s outlets one more time.
  • Snacks // I travel with my own favorite teas and instant coffee (tiny paper tubes of Mount Hagen organic instant – love it!) Also, durable foods like apples and almonds, to keep body and soul together in an emergency. And an empty water bottle – once past security, I fill it and keep it filled.
  • Cash // Get a supply of singles for tipping, and small bills for splitting checks in restaurants.
  • Camera + video recorder // These are probably on your phone, but if you’d like better quality, pack the right tools.
  • Gifts // My roommates may forgive my stuff spread all over the desk when I’ve brought them a little box of Rechiutti chocolate from San Francisco.

 To Do:

  • Make plane, hotel, and car reservations. Write addresses and confirmation numbers in your calendar.
  • Plan your objectives. (Ideally, you’ll do this before you decide to go.) Why are you going? What do you want to accomplish?
  • Decide who you’d like to connect with. Schedule a lunch, dinner, or walk with them. (You can have a great meeting on a 45-minute walk.)
  • Go to twitter for conference hashtags (#NAPO2013) and look to see who’s talking about it.
  • Plan what you’ll wear each day + make a packing list. Conference rooms can range from frigid to frying, so dress in layers. If you’re presenting, don’t wear jewelry that will make noises like a cement mixer when it rubs against the lavalier microphone you’re wearing. (I learned this the hard way.)
  • Make time for a little sight-seeing. Every city in the world has something worth seeing, doing, and experiencing. And it helps to clear some conference fog from the brain.

Useful Apps:

  • AroundMe // lets you find the nearest coffee shop, ATM, hospital, or gas station in a strange city.
  • Airline apps // include HipMunk for a great comparison shopping app for airlines + hotels.
  • OpenTable // for restaurant reservations on the fly, wherever you are. User reviews and ratings help to separate the good from the “meh.”
  • Skype // receive + make calls free or nearly free, anywhere.
  • Sleep Cycle // wakes you gently at the shallowest point in your sleep cycle so you avoid that awful “wrenched from the arms of Morpheus” feeling. Sleep is scarce enough during conferences, right?
  • Social media // facebook, LinkedIn, twitter – or use HootSuite and have them all under one roof.
  • Yogaspot // start the day with half an hour of morning flow class.


12 Responses to My Conference Packing List is Now Yours, Too

  1. Great list. Now mine is almost done! This is my first time attnding a NAPO Conference. I have to select just one a year and the ICD has won out each year due to my niche market. Not this year! I have a typical female question, “What do I wear?” What types of clothing do people usually wear at NAPO Conference? Also, since there are evening events, such as the CPO reception, do I need to pack fancier evening outfits as well? Thanks for sharing your list. Off to check out Jodi’s now and then off to see a client.

    • Kristi, so glad you’ll be at NAPO in New Orleans! The conference info says “business casual” — so shorts + flip-flops are out. Otherwise, you see a wide variety, from khakis + polos to nice suits with heels. There’s no need to dress up for evening events such as the CPO reception, though when someone decides to change into something a little extra sparkly, I always think it adds to the festive feeling. And scan the schedule for any day that includes a box lunch in the expo hall, because lots of people end up sitting on the floor to eat (think “picnic”, rather than “airport closed by a storm.”) Wear whatever makes you feel good, and of course LAYERS!

  2. Thanks for the list, Margaret!
    Kristi — you can look at photos from last year’s conference to get an idea of what people wear. It’s probably very similar to the ICD conference. I would add comfortable shoes to Margaret’s list. You’ll be doing a lot of walking.

  3. 1. It’s New Orleans soooo, bring some antacid and hangover remedies for all the great food and drink!
    2. a pair of sneakers and walking clothes to make your way around the French Quarter.. weather should be warm since it’s the south. Also umbrella since it’s New Orleans and weather is unpredictable from day to day on the coast.
    3. Light sweater for the cold conference rooms
    4. earplugs for noisy roommate (my roommie will have to wear them to drown me out)
    5. stylus for taking notes on tablet

  4. Love New Orleans! Sounds like a rather fun trip actually 🙂 Thanks for sharing your check list, it will help as I am preparing to travel to LA this week.


  5. Ooh, I’m starting to get excited about NAPO2014! I have long carried a 3-outlet adapter for hotels that don’t have enough outlets. Last year I got caught up in an airline-wide computer outage which grounded all the planes for hours. Everyone was scrambling to check news, and make other arrangements, and after awhile everyone’s phone needed charging in a terminal with very few outlets. I was able to share an outlet that was already in full use, no questions asked, by flashing my 3-way adapter.

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