Big education conferences like ISTE, ALA, AASL and FETC can be fun, exciting and thrilling. But they can often be overwhelming, especially for first-timers. I’ve been going to big conferences like these for seven years, so I’ve been working on tweaking and perfecting my conference gear to make it 1) not too heavy and 2) cover all the bases of what I need. Here’s some of my recommendations for what to pack for your next conference.
The Best Stuff to Pack for Your Next Big Conference
For the sake of this post, I’m going to focus on what to pack that you actually bring with you to the conference itself. This isn’t a post on creating the perfect wardrobe or maximizing your toiletry kit. It’s all about what you carry and wear while wandering around the conference itself.
Tech gear and gadgets
Education and technology conferences mean lots of gear and gadgets. It can be tempting to bring WAY more than you really need though. Plan out what you need and stick to that. The most basic things are chargers, power bricks and charging cables (mini 6 inch ones are my favorites).These are my favorite items:
- Cocoon Grid-It – it keeps things amazingly organized and easy to find.
- Bagsmart Electronic Organizer – I love this one because it keeps things organized and it zips up.
- Mini cables!
- Micro USB
- Need a different kind? Search for it on Amazon and add the words “6 inch” or “1 ft”
- Charger for your laptop and other devices
- Portable phone charger– I use the one from my Away suitcase, but any quality portable phone charger will do.
- A surge protector with usb ports and outlets – I usually keep mine in the hotel room, but sometimes I bring it to the conference as well. This option has a space to prop your phone on it while it charges
- A dongle if you’re a Mac User – This multipurpose one was recommended to me recently and looks fantastic
- Wireless presentation remote – If you are presenting, these are a must. It makes it so much easier to control your slideshows.
I’ve been getting into sketchnotes, so I like to pack supplies to take analog notes when I go to conferences.
- Moleskine Notebook – I prefer the soft cover with the dotted pages
- Lots of pens – I LOVE Sharpie pens
- Markers or Colored pencils optional
This is also kind of old school, but I keep a simple plastic folder with pockets in my backpack too. It’s great for storing handouts, vendor literature and other items without them getting crumpled up in my bag.
You also want to make sure that you’re prepared for networking. Don’t forget to make address labels with your contact info for vendor giveaways. Make sure you have some awesome business cards to give to people so that they know how to get in touch with you. I was inspired by Gwyneth Jone’s awesome tutorial to make my own mini Moo cards and I love them.
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Snacks and Drinks
It’s easy to forget to eat and drink at conferences. Pack a few quick snacks in your bag and bring a reusable water bottle to fill up. If you like to get coffee or tea a lot, you might want to bring a reusable thermos too. I usually keep these (except for the coffee mug) in my bag:
- Kind bars
- Epic jerky
- Reusable water bottle
- Reusable coffee mug – If you get a lot of coffee. I also love my Zorijushi for tea.
Health and Wellness
With the COVID-19 pandemic, some more items bear mentioning here. I’ve also included general wellness items that are good to have no matter what contagious diseases might be out there.
- Face masks
- Travel-size hand sanitizer
- Tylenol, Advil or other painkillers
- Dramamine for travel
- Period supplies for those with uteruses
- Immune system support – I love ACF Immune Response (look for travel sizes locally) and Beekeeper’s Throat Spray, but whatever kind of elderberry/Vitamin C supplement you use is good here.
- Cough drops
What to Wear
I know I said I wasn’t going to talk about clothes, but I’ll throw it in here anyway. Pack a neutral color palette that’s easy to mix and match so you don’t limit yourself on outfits. Wear things that are both comfortable and professional. But most importantly, pick your shoes carefully.
- Comfortable shoes that you can walk for miles in – I swear by Abeo and Dansko
- Moleskin for the inevitable blisters that will happen
What to Pack it all in
Find a comfortable and professional backpack that works for you. I’m a big fan of tons of pockets and organization, but everyone is different on this front. While it cost a small fortune, I love my Tumi Calais backpack . It’s not too large, which forces me to only bring what I really need. If I have a day where I don’t need to carry my laptop, I love my Travelon backpack.
Another good option is the Tom Bihn Synapse 19 for a slightly more casual pack. I also love Timbuk2 Showdown backpacks for their organization (check out their work and laptop bags). Find one that works for you and your style. Your shoulders will thank you.
Did I miss anything? What are your favorite items to pack for conferences?
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