Not all professional conferences are the same! At most, packing a good attitude and a ton of business cards should get you through the day. But at blogging and social media conferences, you will find attendees sharing power outlets, texting as they walk, and exchanging twitter handles instead of cards. Conferences often include fun dinners, giveaways and swag, in addition to panels and workshops where you will want to look and feel comfy while you take notes on your laptop. I’ve made plenty of mistakes at my first events, from not carrying a power cord to staying at a hotel across town to running out of business cards. And of course I’ve worn the wrong shoes, ended up with sore feet, and shivered at a keynote speech because I forgot air conditioning in conference rooms is usually colder than the coldest winter in NYC! So, read on and see what I pack when I travel to these events. And if you have any suggestions of your own, be my guest and add them in the comments section!
Read Related: A woman’s guide to a social media conference
Men usually wear a jacket, but women need something light and packable that we can carry everywhere we may be unexpectedly cold: airplanes, hotel and conference rooms. Even if your next event is in sunny Florida, don’t be fooled! You will need a cover-up indoors. I usually carry a few scarves, which I’ve picked up at stores such as Old Navy, TJMaxx or Marshalls. They are versatile and scrunchable. My most recent discovery is the Chilly Jilly Jacket or shawl, which is a perfect fit for a busy traveling woman. If you decide to try it out you can use SAVE25 discount code when you check out!
I try to pack as few clothes as possible, and I never use the laundry service at hotels. I might as well buy a new garment for the price they charge! So, if I take the kids along, I pack the Scrubba Wash Bag, so we can wash our clothes in the room, and line dry them in the shower. It helped a lot when we attended Disney Social Media Moms Celebration!
You need to be able to whip out your business cards at a moment’s notice, and not waste time fumbling in a big purse to find your cardholder. I recently found this lanyard business card holder on Etsy, which I purchased in pink. If you wear it along with your conference badge, the trick is to replenish your own cards here throughout the day, and then store the ones you are given in the back pocket of your badge. Speaking of which, I like to dress my badge up with a glitzy lanyard. Last year one of my new dresses was ruined by the lanyard provided by the conference so now I take my own! And I can switch it up depending on the clothes I’m wearing.
Comfy shoes should be a given but, how to wear heels without sacrificing comfort? I recently won a giftcard during a Twitter party and used it to splurge on a pair of Born wedges, which dress up jeans and go well with dresses too. I can be on my feet all day in them and feel just fine! If you prefer flip-flops or flats, you may want to try Pluggz, that promise to ground you and provide a benefit similar to walking in the sand. They’re worth a try and they take up less space. I say wear the wedges on the plane and pack the flats! Still, just in case, I also take something to prevent blisters, because you just never know! And before I go to sleep, I slather on some Ralyn NightCare Foot Cream.
You will need a great totebag or backpack for your electronics. You should plan on taking your laptop if you are a content creator, and of course your tablet and smartphone with all your charging cords, and a juice pack for your smartphone. I’ve been enjoying my Mophie, which I purchased at a discount on Amazon.com. Make sure you also take an extension cord if you plan on working—tweeting, blogging or note-taking during panels.
I’ve sworn off large handbags during conferences. In addition to my tote bag (one I picked up at a thrift store) for electronics, if I need to carry cash, cards and lipstick, for example, I will use a small crossbody bag by Baggallini, which I usually get at my local TJMaxx or Marshalls. I have one that doubles as a clutch, and it’s so small that when I get tired of wearing it I can throw it in the tote bag without feeling weighed down!
For me, an eye mask and earplugs are a must, especially if I’m sharing the room with other colleagues. This is more and more common since, if you attend several conferences in one year, hotel expenses add up. Plus rooming is a great way to bond with your peers!
Whether you take a carry on or check your suitcase (I envy those who are able to fit it all in a carry on!), you’ll need a good spill-proof cosmetics bag. Modella bags are inexpensive but fun and versatile.
I’ve been a fan of Bondi Band hairbands for a few years now. I started using them as wicking bands for running, but then I tried their fashion line and I’m hooked. Having long hair, they are great to keep it in place when you don’t feel like getting up half an hour earlier to blow dry!
Every woman should own one great piece of shapewear so she can rock her hip-hugging little black dress at the evening cocktail party. If you feel good, you will look good and come across as more confident.
Then there are the obvious things to take, such as business cards. I order mine at Vistaprint, but I’ve heard great things about Moo cards, and Mabel’s Labels also has a great assortment of labels to stick on your belongings in case you misplace them in the conference rooms!
Did I leave anything out? Please let me know below!