On any given day of the year, somewhere in the world, a tech conference is happening. The focus of these conferences can be very specific or very general, but all of them have the common goal of expanding awareness and giving attendees a face-to-face experience with content. Whether your attending or all-in working the show as a vendor, we’ve put together some tips to help you get the most out of your next conference.
Our personal favorite conference, AstriCon, is only days away. Speakers are practicing their talks, vendors are perfecting their pitches, and attendees are packing their bags. In addition to AstriCon, Digium employees attend many conferences throughout the year, and because of that, we have become quite the experts on what to bring, and how to make the most of the experience- whether you are working the event or simply attending. So for those of you getting ready to head out to AstriCon, or any other tech conference, below you will find a list of some obvious and not-so-obvious items to pack in your travel bag, some general tips for attending a conference, and some uncensored advice from our own conference veteran and Senior Product Manager, Malcolm Davenport.
Tech Conference Packing Tips
Very Obvious Must-Bring Items:
- Weather-appropriate clothing
- Basic toiletries
- Mobile phone
- Cash & credit cards
Somewhat Obvious Must-Bring items:
- Business cards
- Power adapter
- Thumb drive
- Hand sanitizer/ baby wipes
- Phone with internet access
- External hard drive
- Bottled water
- Power strip
- Energy bars
- A badge sleeve/lanyard
- External cell battery
- 5-Hour Energy shot
- Lip balm
- Comfy shoes
- cDAP charging station
- Travel-size medicine
- Extension cord
- Cough drops
Not so obvious items:
- Daily envelopes for receipts on expenses incurred
- Mobile LinkedIn app to quickly add connections and contacts
- Conference app for real-time speaker and event updates
- Liquid bandage: Apply it before wearing harsh heels or toe popping flats as a preemptive strike
- Trigger point ball for sore muscles
- Fellow employees’ mobile numbers and travel itineraries
- Business card organizing app
- Good quality coffee for your room
Now that you’re all packed, here are some tips and things to remember when attending a conference:
- Carry personal, separate-from-work business cards with you. If you get to chatting with someone about a topic that’s not work related and wants to stay in touch, it can be a bit weird to give them a card with your employer’s details on it.
- Maximize your ability to do things after hours and to get your disco naps in by staying at the conference host hotel, or one very close by.
- If your travel plans are flexible, see if there are any relevant meetups or user group meetings the week before the conference. If you’re speaking at the conference, it will give you a chance to do a practice run with a smaller group, and they’ll appreciate getting an out-of-town speaker.
- Monitor Twitter feeds (usually events have a dedicated hashtag – like #ASTRICON), blogs, mailing lists, and other sites with conference info to get the latest updates, and to get familiar with other attendees.
- Take your time at the conference. Sometimes it’s better to see less and learn more than to skim through all the speakers, demos, discussions, etc.
- Don’t attend sessions in which the speaker is discussing a topic you’re already an expert in. If you do, you’ll be bored and sit there second-guessing the speaker, wanting to interject with your opinion or a correction. Instead, go to a session on something you’re not familiar with and learn something new.
- If the conference has an app with the daily schedule on it, download it. (Check out this scheduling app for AstriCon!) You are carrying enough stuff already.
Malcolm Asks, Malcolm Answers
Doing booth setup or teardown by yourself?
Bring along a Jambox or another Bluetooth speaker box to play some inspiring music while you do booth construction; or, use it during disassembly when you’re waiting on your crates to come back from the bowels of the convention center.
Want your crates to come faster, so you can make your flight home?
Find a worker with a forklift, tear a $100 bill in two and give them half. Your crates should arrive before Marshawn Lynch can leave the press conference.
Planning to use a video display of some kind?
Make sure to bring along DVI, VGA and HDMI adapters for your laptop or output device. You never know what kind of monitor you’re going to run into.
Working CeBIT and pulling all 7 days of booth duty by yourself?
Your feet will complain. Get an electric foot massager and hide it under the table.
Working CeBIT and pulling all 7 days of booth duty by yourself, and you prefer to self medicate?
Use these handy Beer Hiders so it looks like you’re responsibly drinking a soda.
Is your booth is being visited by people at the trade show who want to sell you something, rather than be your customer?
Keep some business cards that are generic for your company and hand those out. Or hand out someone else’s. In the same breath, don’t leave a box of your business cards in the booth overnight- they’ll be stolen, and you’ll start getting a lot of interesting calls from whomever was handing out your cards.
Purchased the cheap Internet package for your booth that said single computer, but you’re actually running a router with a dozen devices behind it – because you didn’t want to pay for the expensive package?
Don’t do it. The trade show IT staff delights in letting you run those dozen devices for the first hour of show time, and will gleefully cut you off the moment your booth is full of leads being demoed. Pay the toll.
To Learn more and stay up-to-date on our favorite Tech Conference, visit the Astricon website.