We are off to our second conference next week and SO excited- but… there are also some lessons we learned from last year’s adventure. Read on for some conference tips that are sure to help make your whirlwind week go smooth!
1. Send all information.
Many times when you meet a new person, you want to be able to reconnect with them, so when you text your number to someone, send your full name AND number in the body of the text.
Sometimes it all gets lost in translation and seeing all of the info on the screen can really help… and on smart phones, the number is highlighted! Just click and you’re calling! How simple!
2. One group page.
Facebook pages are so easy to make that sometimes multiples come about for conferences and then confusion about threads… it’s a mess. One page, with multiple events are a perfect solution because they give a conscious timeline, as well as options for what people want to join, see, and feed into!
3. Car share/car pool/public transportation.
Ideas like parking off-site to save money, renting a car only for necessary days, getting familiar with the public transportation in your destination city, and even splitting car rental with another family are all ways you can save time and money. Getting creative, as well as informed, gives you more options- for instance, most conferences take place in walk-friendly cities, where hailing a cab may be an easier feat than finding parking- plus, many hotels offer group shuttle service from the local airport for less than a cab! Before you click “add a car” to your reservation, be sure to look into other options.
*Biggest tip this year: park at the convention center a few blocks off-site from the hotel!
4. Make a budget, including some funds for an emergency (ripped luggage, forgotten bathing suit, ER copay, etc.), and make a plan to stay in it.
For us, that means clearly outlining what we do ahead of time (admissions to parks, airline fees, parking, gas, and meals) and then sticking to it. I wish there was some extra in case there’s something really fun, but that’s not in the cards- remembering that if you’re on a strict budget may cost you “trading” one thing for another is crucial. Enjoying a vacation that leaves you further in debt is only a vacation that will leave a bitter taste in your mouth. Remember to include little things, like internet, which is free in our hotel lobby, but not in the rooms- this means I have to work from the lobby or pay, or tether to my phone- so I have to have enough data. Both Dave and I need to work (there’s no vacation for a freelancer), so being sure we’ve covered all of our bases as far as expenses is important. Enjoy your trip by not over-extending yourself financially… then the memories are of joy and not stress!
5. Make a list!
I LOVE lists… I’ve made one of what we pack, as well as names and numbers of friends we want to connect with ahead of time! Having that on paper means I don’t have to dig through my phone to find that information later and no one gets left out.
6. Grocery shop.
The hotels booked for conferences KNOW how to have a conference-number of people, and (most) have refrigerators in the room, as well as space on desks and tables for dry goods. To save money (breakfast buffets can be upwards of $20 per person at conference hotels), we buy bagels and fruit for the mornings, as well as lunch meats, cheese, and bread for lunch- and always bring water bottles. I pack two water bottles per person to bring through the airport empty and have it filled at one of the airport bars. The same goes for traveling. We use these water bottles day in and day out filled with ice and water from the hotel. We plan special meals out, as well as budget for coffee each day, because we both love to support local coffee shops and need good java! Not dining out for every meal or having to buy a beverage whenever you need a drink can save you over $100 a day- #truestory.
7. Business cards.
These are a must for all professional conferences, but having business cards for whatever you do and whoever you are is something I live by. With your name, number, picture… whatever you want- make it fun and identifiable. For me, I use moo.com (not only awesome at all things print, but my most missed employer!) Their business cards are the most amazing quality (and hold up to the test of being at the bottom of the bag). Each pack comes with it’s own carrying case, and dividers so you can place other cards behind of your own, so they’re super easy to transport and they’re made right here in Rhode Island! Get your order in NOW and you can have them before the conference! Here are the ones that I ordered for the conference:
Not Optimus, but Amazon (although I cannot wait for the new Transformers movie!). As a Prime member, you can have goods shipped to your hotel ahead of time, like diapers, that are especially bulky and disposable- and as an member you get free Prime shipping in about 2 days! Please be sure to call the hotel and make arrangements. (Anyone who cloth diapers- how do you travel and still CD?! Tips, welcome!!!!)
I go old school with this and use my planner so that I know what’s going on each day. I also print out a calendar of just the days we will be at the conference and fill it in with what’s going on that we want to do and then eliminate from there. From going to the most important medical workshops to making sure my own speaking event and Addie’s fashion show debut and the group photo are all accounted for, having everything written down means less stress of where to be and when, as well as overbooking your time- remember everyone needs some downtime, so don’t forget to head to the hotel pool, gym or just lay in bed for some time, too!
10. HAVE SOME FREAKING FUN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!