Northwest Association of College & University Housing Officers

10 Things to Bring When Attending a Conference

By Olivia Stankey

Getting ready to attend a conference, but do not know what to bring on the professional side?  Below is a list of 10 items that will help you network, learn, and rock your conference with ease.

  1. Business Cards: Meet someone at the conference who has a shared interest? How about a great presentation you’d love to hear more about? Business cards are a great way to exchange information quickly following a session, at conference meals, or any time in between scheduled events. (Pro Tip: If you receive a business card, do not forget to write on the back how you know them or what you connected over. It’s quite difficult to remember after the conference)
  2. Power Strip: Our society uses so much technology that there are often not enough outlets to go around. Bringing a power strip not only solves this potential problem for yourself and others, but also allows for networking with those who also need an outlet. Makes you look resourceful and prepared! (Credit: Alycia Pruitt, Baylor University)
  3. Note Taking Device: People take notes in different ways, from laptops and tablets, to regular pen and paper. Whatever method works best for you, make sure you bring something to take notes on. You never know when a presentation is going to cover exactly what you need or a networking conversation leads to an opportunity you do not want to forget.
  4. Cash: Much of our world runs through cards and apps, but sometimes cash is still needed. Possibly a chance to tip a hotel valet or employee, or maybe pay a local vendor for their art at a street fair happening in town, or even cover a meal from a local food truck.  You do not want to miss out on an opportunity because you forgot to bring cash. With this year’s conference being in Canada, you may want to exchange some cash to have on hand in that currency. (Pro Tip: If you are driving to the conference, make sure you also have cash in the form of low bills and coins as you may run into toll roads, not all of which are card or even bill friendly.)
  5. Receipt Bag: Whether your department reimburses you for travel expenses or maybe you are at a job searching conference, it is never a bag thing to keep track of your receipts. If you are at a conference job searching, it is important to keep your receipts as you may be able to claim them on taxes (same thing for moving expenses). If your department reimburses you for travel, it is important to have the original receipts as proof of purchases.
  6. Copies of Your Resume: When at conferences, it is a hotbed of networking opportunities, from connecting with a speaker with a great presentation to who you sit by at lunch. Having a few copies of your resume on hand in case a conversation turns into a potential job opportunity is a great way to be prepared. It also makes you look organized and prepared.  Secondly, it is a great way to let a potential new mentor know about your past work and school experiences.
  7. Snacks: Oftentimes, conferences provide a few meals, such as during an opening or closing banquet, a lunch here or there, etc. However, many conferences do not provide snacks throughout the day other than possibly coffee or tea. If you are someone who gets peck-ish in late morning or early afternoon, snacks are a must. They are also a great way to make connections if the person next to you is also hungry. (Pro Tip: stay away from foods that are common airborne allergies, such as peanuts).
  8. Water Bottle: Have you ever had to hunt for a water fountain or used your hands to scoop water from the bathroom sink? Staying hydrated is important during conferences. It keeps potential headaches away during long days as well as keep you feeling well even if the room is freezing and drying out your skin. Additionally, you can scope out where you can fill your water bottle ahead of time at your hotel or convention center so you can fill it when convenient, rather than rushing and hunting between sessions.
  9. Medication (Tums, Tylenol): Ever try to sit through a session with acid reflex? How about a throbbing headache? You want to be on top of your learning and networking game at conferences, so being sick is not helpful. Packing medication for headaches, such as Tylenol or Advil, or stomach medication like Tums or other antacids, can really come in handy in case of a mid-afternoon lull. At the risk of being a broken record, they also come in handy for making connections as you may not be the only one in need of medication.
  10. Headphones: Conferences can be draining, especially if you are introverted or need the periodic break from others. Having headphones allows you to kindly let others know socially that you need a break without telling anyone to back off. Listen to your favorite music or try out a new audiobook. Make sure you take care of yourself during the process. (Pro Tip: If you’re feeling on sensory overload and music or audiobooks may add to the problem, putting in headphones and not listening to anything also may help. It sends the same message to others, but does not add additional stimuli to the experience.)

Olivia works as a Program Coordinator for Residential Leadership at University of Oregon. She may be reached at stankey@uoregon.edu


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