Make the Most of Your Fall Conferences with Our Conference Prep Tips!
Fall may be about pumpkin spice lattes, jeans and sweaters, and football games for a lot of people, but it is also a time for conferences and travel in the world of nursing and nursing education!!!! Are you ready to prep for your conference attendance and travels this fall?
Here at the IU School of Nursing, we plan conferences and attend them too, and we know that making the most of your short time there is important to think about. The presentations are the focus, but we also know that much of the value of a conference lies in the people- new connections, old colleagues you want to catch up with, and everyone in between.
To try to get an idea of how some frequent conference-goers make the most of their time, we asked around at the IU School of Nursing for tips to ensure that your conference experience is maximized and meaningful and then compiled some great ideas about prepping ahead, what to pack, useful apps and technology, and other helpful tips. Now, we bring you….
“BEST PRACTICES IN CONFERENCE PACKING AND PREPARATION”
While hopefully the best practices you learn about at your conference(s) are evidence-based, alas, these tips are not based in research, but we still think they’re great ideas!
BEFORE YOU GO…. Things to think about, or google, or both.
- Websites & Social Media
- Conference Website.Check out the website to understand where to be on the first day and what are some ‘must see/do’ activities for you.
- Tweet a hello! Identify the conference Twitter handle in advance and tweet something (e.g. “Looking forward to X conference!”). You may be surprised at the connections you make before even heading to the conference.
- Contact speakers or attendees ahead to schedule coffee or networking meetings and consider participating in mentoring programs as mentor or mentee, for professional development, networking, or manuscript development
- Find good eats- so many choices, so little time
- Check out local restaurant reviews and make reservations ahead if you’re a foodie or really want to meet up with friends and grab a great meal- this is really important if you’re going to a large conference/convention where the restaurants might fill up quickly.
- On a related note, preview shopping areas because who knows when you might need something you forgot, something that broke (one of our watches died at a conference and we were thankful for the jeweler nearby!) or…just because.
- TSA Pre-Check. Hate waiting in long lines and taking your shoes off at airport security? Make an appointment at your local airport to get TSA pre-check status- More info found here.
- Check the weather! No one wants to get caught off guard with unseasonably cold or warm weather, or constant downpours without the right gear. Make sure you know what you’re in for, but also remember the temperatures inside the conference space will vary. Layers are a good bet.
PRESENTING? Here are some good ideas to help you feel less nervous. A little bit, anyway.
- Be prepared! One faculty member says she brings her presentation ON her laptop,copied to 2 flash drives, AND emails it to herself to cover all possible bases.
- When the excited mob of participants swarms around you after the presentation…don’t panic! Make sure you have your business cards, palm cards or handouts, and any other resources you think people might find helpful. Ask for their cards too if it sounds like they’re doing work that you are interested in.
- Doing a poster presentation? Find a great poster tube or carrying case to make travel easier and don’t forget to label it well, or consider having it printed on fabric for easy packing and no extra carry on.
WHAT TO PUT IN THAT SUITCASE AND CARRY ON?
- Conference Clothes
- Clothes & Shoes- Comfy shoes are a priority for sure. Consider lightweight, soft fabric, low wrinkle dresses (they take up less room than separates) or pants and tops. We hear that Chico’s has a travel line that some of our faculty love and also that reversible neckties can maximize packing and provide double use from one item. Pack around a single color so you don’t have to bring many shoe options.
- Packing tips-Packing cubes like these will make your travel more organized and space-saving. If that’s not up your alley, try rolling rather than folding to save space and decrease wrinkles. And little tiny containers from the Container Store or similar organization products go a long way in holding toiletries & cosmetics without taking up a ton of space.
- Bags– one good sized bag to carry around the conference, and maybe a smaller bag for going to dinner or running for coffee, if your things won’t fit in your pockets!
- First aid items– one faculty member likes to bring muscle rub after a long day on her feet…we also like band-aids and other blister treatments when we end up with not-so-comfy shoes on all day…
- Warm stuff- A shawl because everyone gets cold and bonus, you can lend it out! Alternatively, a sweater or jacket that you can easily carry in your bag.
- Cool stuff- If you’re someone who gets warm easily, stick an accordion style folded fan in your bag- you just never know what the temperature might be in conference rooms- cold, hot, and everything in between.
- Tablet, computer and phone-Because we know you haven’t thought of that already.
- Portable device charger- If you don’t have one of these gizmos already, there are so many options available.
- Plug in device charger- if you happen to forget this, ask the front desk at the hotel, they may have spares because they’re often left behind by guests.
- Healthy snacks- in case a meal isn’t your cup of tea, or you arrive late and miss breakfast.
- Things to share
- Business cards- treat yourself to a new case so they don’t get banged up in your bag
- Flyers or information about your School/Programs—- always be ready to give information about your organization/programs because every person could be a potential faculty, employee, or student!
These won’t fit in your carry on but don’t forget to also bring…
- Students- they can network, learn alongside faculty and see how we spend our time at conferences
- Junior faculty with similar interests
MUST HAVE’S ON YOUR PHONE, TABLET, OR OTHER DEVICE?
- Apps, apps, and more apps!
- The conference app- this is a must have if the conference is using one, for searching, scheduling, reminders, presentation downloads, networking, and the added benefit of not carrying around a heavy program.
- Twitter- You don’t have to actually tweet if you’re not interested or comfortable, but ‘tweeting the meeting’ is becoming more common, and following it is an easy way to get tons of information and find connections.
- Yelp, Zomato, TripAdvisor, or other restaurant apps for finding places to eat, directions and reviews as well as fun tours and sightseeing activities.
- Uber or Lyft apps for getting rides to and from the airport, train station, or just around town.
- QR code reader app in case posters or presentations have a QR code for contact information (click here if you’re not sure what we’re talking about).
- Evernote, OneNote, or other notetaking apps– for those who like to take their notes electronically-these apps have so many great features for organizing and sharing notes.
- Books, magazines, movies, games, or other fun diversions for airports, train or plane rides, delays (we hope not!), and unwinding at the end of the day. Just don’t forget to download things before you go so that you don’t get stuck somewhere with no wifi.
DON’T FORGET- ONCE YOU’RE THERE…
- Talk to people and take advantage of the opportunities!
- Come up with some good introductory questions to strike up conversation.
- Take pictures if you want to be sure to remember someone.
- Don’t forget to spend time with colleagues you don’t get to see often or spend time with during the rest of the year.
- Meeting up for a walk around the area can be a great way to get to know someone and get some exercise.
Need more ideas? These are some articles we found while digging around on the WWW…We’d love to hear from you about your best ideas, hacks, and tips for conference packing and participation in the comments section.
MeetingMogul: 9 Best Travel Accessories for Easy Business Traveling
10 Essential Business Travel Tips for Your Next Conference
Powerful women: Here’s how you travel in style (Side note: these are NOT just helpful for women!)
Special thanks to Janna Beecham, Janet Carpenter, Lisa Carter-Harris, Rebecca Ellis, Jennifer Embree, Barb Friesth, and Julie LaMothe for all their awesome tips!