It’s 2018, What’s in my Conference Bag?
Just want the good stuff? Scroll down for my top 10 tips for what to bring and what to do. Then, don’t miss out at the very bottom is my conference bag checklist and goal planner!
Back in 2014, David Kelley interviewed me for the (then) upcoming Dev Learn Conference sponsored by the Elearning Guild, he was writing a series on what people bring to the conference with them. There was a lot of good information captured from a variety of people.
Cut to 2015, when I updated the list slightly and posted it here.
Now it’s 2018, WOW has time flown. I have taken the same questions from my 2014 interview and updated my answers to reflect where we are now in 2018. As they say, the more things change the more they stay the same.
As I was reading the past post, I realized my point of view has changed. Back in 2014, I was just ending my corporate career and starting out on my own. This is an important message, as we learn and grow within ourselves and our careers, our goals change. They should change. Your point of view changes as you have developed new experiences.
I challenge you to answer the questions for yourself and set solid goals for your conference experience.
So away we go. What’s in My conference Bag?
One word that describes why I attend conferences:
Okay – being the rebel I am, I’m going to go with two words: Learning and Friends.
Something most people don’t know about me:
Ask me anything about a Bond movie, my head is full of Bond trivia! Secondly, if I could give all this up to work for NASCAR, I’d do it! (anyone from NASCAR listening?)
Besides the conference-provided materials, what types of things do you carry in your conference bag?
- My phone. Nuf said.
- Notebook/Pen(s)/Highlighters: Sometimes you need to go old school. I usually carry a moleskin book which holds conference notes from other conferences as well.
- Sticky Notes: One can never have enough sticky notes
- iPad with Logitech keyboard cover – I find I take notes faster and easier if I can type them. I keep my notes Google Docs. This way I can share the notes and have access to the notes across devices. Why this matters to you – keeping your notes on Evernote, OneNote or Google docs allows you to share your notes in the moment. Especially with Google docs. How cool would lit be for you to writing notes and your team asks questions in the moment. SUPER COOL!
- Portable Charger – always carry a charger. Why spend your time searching for charging stations for outlets? The ABC’s of conferences…ALWAYS BE CHARGING! Here is a great charger, order now and you’ll have by the time you leave. YOU WILL NOT REGRET IT.
- Water bottle: $5 for a bottle of water? PUUUULZE use a water bottle and refill during the day.
- Up to date business cards. Seriously people. Even if your company does not provide you with business cards, buy some for yourself. Alternatively, add the app “Haystack” to your phone. You are going to meet cool people and potential future opportunities, you don’t want to lose out because of a lack of a business card. Vista Print is great, I use Moo.com because they are awesome!
- Caffeine: Not in my bag but almost always in my hand – coffee.
- Energy Bar/Sustenance: This conference is a marathon. Don’t forget to take care of you.
- Zee! #ATDZEBRA my unofficial mascot
What types of things do you do BEFORE a conference to plan and get more out of the experience?
Search my network to find out who is going to be there and when. Find out where they are staying, tentatively plan dinners and find out where tweet-ups may be happening. Get those dinners on your calendar. Many conferences have a variety of events, you don’t want to double book or worse leave a friend hanging.
- Determine a specific conference goal: Last year I wanted to work the Expo and do some serious networking. Same will happen this year, as my POV is from being an independent consultant. But to augment that, I plan on finding cool tools with microlearning potential, so I’ll find sessions that focus on Augmented Reality. An example of goal setting: 4 years ago at the ASTD ICE expo it was about finding translators who could translate our LMS into multiple languages, the year before it was simulation developers.
- A goal for the sessions: For example, last year I wanted to learn everything I could about mobile learning, from development to best practices. So, I focused my sessions there, then I carved out time to support friends who were presenting and attended where I could.
- Determine if there are any networking events I want to attend: Some are paid, and some are free. Determine if you feel the event will be worth it to you, don’t feel you have to go to everything. This is where connecting with your network ahead of time helps.
- Have a checklist. I’m a SEASONED traveler, but terribly forgetful. I still create a checklist for this event. This is not the time to run around trying to find a power cord, or toothbrush.
What do I do to keep the learning going after the conference ends?
I know it sounds old school, but I try to connect with everyone from whom I collected a business card. The best part of the conference is adding new people to my network, so I want to find them on FB or twitter.
Sometimes sessions are connected to chat groups or FB pages, I make note of those and add them to the list of things to investigate when I get home. I keep a separate list on Evernote for apps or tools mentioned that I found interesting I spend time reviewing that list to determine what I can actually use now, versus what goes into an idea file.
What apps/tools/resources help you get the most out of a conference?
- Google Photos! My phone – the camera gets a heavy work out. This year I’ll use the Learning Rebels Facebook account to organize the photos and share. However, Google photos automatically syncs your photos to the cloud, letting you delete on your phone creating valuable memory. Plus, you can organize the photos into albums for sharing.
- The conference app: Most a pretty robust now, allowing you to add sessions directly to your calendar, some have a note taking functions and others even allow you to post to twitter directly from the app. This said, I also carry the hard copy of the conference agenda with me, just in case with sticky notes and a highlighter. (I use lots and lots of sticky notes!)
- Evernote (how did we ever effectively collaborate before Evernote?): This is where I post blog ideas, capture cool notes for tools etc.
- Google Docs. I keep lists and main ideas there to share with others.
- Twitter! I have met some of the best people through tweet-ups, find what the event official hashtag is and keep it open. I use hootsuite.
- FB group chats via messenger – the quickest way to plan a meet-up with a specific group of people.
- Open Table and Yelp for those last minute group dinners
- Expensify to track expenses.
- Haystack: Use haystack to immediately send your contact information to those important and fun people you REALLY want to connect with after the conference.
- A good voice recorder: Video is great, but maybe you don’t have the best view and who really wants to hold up a phone for an hour session? Not me. Voice recording allows me to tweet away, and then go back for needed context.
Paper program guide for a conference or a dedicated conference app? Why?
I use both, organizers mean well, but there are times the app doesn’t quite work. Most have an app scheduler, and I use that to plan my day. Then I take the time each night to review the plan for the next day because there may be a session that is highly recommended only to find out the session is filled to capacity. URG! You need a plan “B”. Oh, and by the way – this ATD2018 conference is going to PACKED. Be sure you always have a plan “B” and make sure you’re plan B is close to your plan A. Convention centers are big places.
What topics are of the most interest in right now?
Augmented reality/microlearning tools. We need to start paying attention to these different types of modalities. Instructional design and content creation are evolving. How businesses use training is changing, and we need to be on top of what is happening.
One piece of advice to someone attending a conference for the first time?
Take the time to plan. Even if it’s just surfing the conference site. There are always lots of things to see, lots of sessions to attend and lots of people to meet. It can be very intimidating if you don’t go in with a plan. I learned that the hard way, in the middle of a large conference hall not knowing what or where to go next. Know your goal, this is an expensive conference, you want to get the biggest bang for your buck!
If I were to give a new attendee one task to complete that would define conference success, what would it be?
You will come back with a lot of ideas swimming in your head. Find the one idea that you can put into action now. Then try it. It may be a small idea taken from a session, or something someone told you about, or a website or app to try out. But pick one and do it! Then reach out to your network and share your experiences. That is how we all learn and grow when we share!
A Conference Checklist Just for you:
I have created a conference checklist and conference goal worksheet to help you prepare for your trip. From things to pack – to things to do. I hope you find it useful.
I look forward to seeing you in San Diego. Find me at one of two sessions:
See you soon!