Editor’s Top Picks: The Five Things You Need For Any Conference

conference needs

We’ve all been there–dazed, confused, sans useful tools at a conference, grumpy because our feet hurt. Well, here’s a checklist of useful things to bring when traipsing around the expo floor.

I can personally speak to the usefulness of each of these items, as I’ve either learned the hard way or been incredibly grateful that I had brought an item with me.

Below are five must-have items to bring with you to any expo or conference:

5. No-plug phone charger

I almost panicked on Wednesday when I realized that my phone was dying just as the Blue Line was skidding in to the Mart. For me, and probably a lot of other TechWeekers out there, no phone means almost no business.

Sure, I had a pen and a pad of paper, but I have no intention of trying to network with both of my hands full. None at all.

With my charger nowhere in sight and outlets in scarce availability, I was essentially screwed. Yes, the Verizon store just upstairs can often offer complementary recharging, but I have things to do, none of which include having a charging party with my phone.

So I invested in a cordless charge block.

These nifty little gadgets come in a few different forms—solar, electrically-stored, and a mat—and are a serious life saver when 4pm rolls around and my phone is cheerfully notifying me of the battery’s demise. Toodles, dead-phone excuse; HELLO in-my-bag phone-charging.

4. Gelled insoles

Seriously, this really needs no background or explanation, but I’ll entertain you with the word count anyway.

If you’re going to be on your feet all day, put a pair of magical squishy insoles in your shoes. I repeat, put them in your shoes.

“Well duh, Laura,” you might be saying, but I really want to hammer home the reality that your little tootsies are going to hurt at the end of the day after all that running around, and no amount of Epsom salts and lotion will fix that.

Gelled insoles, while not a perfect solution, can offer some much-needed support (especially for those of us with sky-high arches) and comfort when you’re on your third networking even of the day.

Plus, you probably shouldn’t wear those really cute zebra-print heels hanging out in your closet or that brand new pair of casual-dress shoes that you haven’t even detagged yet. Blister city.

3. Evernote Hello

Evernote itself is probably one of my favorite personal apps, but Evernote Hello takes this to a whole new level. No longer do I have to awkwardly request your name for the fifth freaking time, or have to remember where I shoved that business card.

Evernote Hello pairs up with your LinkedIn account and allows near-instantaneous sharing of contact information via “meetings.” You can define the information you want to share with your new contacts (phone, social media, photo), and redirect your worry energy to something else, like whether or not that barista gave you decaf.

2. Spill Proof Coffee Mug

I don’t understand the convention-goers who try to juggle a paper coffee cup, their bag, their phone, a hand-shaking-hand, and about three other non-essential things while networking.

Make it easier on yourself, and reduce the risk of embarrassing coffee stains or annoying burns by using a tumbler coffee mug to tote your caffeine. Don’t have one? Don’t worry—each coffee shop carries about a billion of them, or the even you’re attending might even be handing them out as swag.

1. A Roomy Bag

As mentioned above, don’t be that goofball juggling five thousand things in your hand while trying to meet people. Seriously—awkward.

Instead, invest in a roomy, comfortable, organization-friendly bag to help tote your essentials.

Guys, this doesn’t mean you have to go find a murse. There are plenty of messenger-style bags out there to suite your needs and style.

While you might be saying “large bags are awkward; I’ll stick with my purse,” it’s more awkward to have to find a hand to shake with a new connection just because you went with uber-chic over practicality.

The bag I’ve saddled myself with has two main compartments and a bunch of pockets for the smaller things in my life at the moment. Plus, the straps are shoulder-friendly.

Image: istockphoto

About The Author

Laura Whitener is the managing editor of Firmology, technology focused news and insight for small business owners and online entrepreneurs. Laura graduated from DePaul’s notable Master of Writing and Publishing program in Chicago. She survives on coffee, apples, and Pandora.

When she isn’t editing or writing, Laura enjoys knitting, adding to her massive book collection, and culinary adventures.

You can find Laura on Twitter and LinkedIn.