Social Media Conferences are a great way to build your business by connecting with other bloggers, social media managers, start-ups and brands.
In this post, I share my must-have items to pack for a conference, and a few hot tips for getting the most out of your “in real life” experience networking with other social media and blogger friends.
Conferences can help you to skyrocket your business, bump up your followers, expand your online presence and make connections and partnerships – all a really great way while learning more about your industry. It's a winning combination.
The reality is, however, that no matter where the conference is held, Aussies are more than likely going to have to fly… either domestically or internationally – to reach a social media conference. But we do it because it is worth it! You should too.
Here are my current top tips for what to pack in your bags for your next social conference:
13 MUST-HAVE ITEMS FOR A SOCIAL MEDIA CONFERENCE
There are a number of items that you can't do without at a social media or blogging conference. Here's my list. You might have your own, so feel free to add them:
Writing, Typing and Tweeting
Regardless of whether you like tech or old-school note taking, at least one device needs to be ready for live social media conversation during the conference – especially tweeting – blogging or working away from home.
(Side note: At a social media or blogging conference, tweeting is the main channel of communication. Other platforms are still hot, but routinely it's the Twitter hashtag that gets all the action).
My choice of laptop is a MacBook Air. I loooooooove it. Most of my content is now in the cloud via Gmail or Dropbox or Evernote, so I don't have to carry a lot of content on my actual laptop when travelling.
This means that I can go with the Air over the Macbook Pro (though I hear the new Pro is almost as light as an Air!).
My laptop is light enough to carry around all day at the conference and have with me when I need it.
I would recommend always taking a laptop in addition to any smaller devices, especially if you are blogging – it's just easier to have your full “work desk” with you. I usually blog about sessions at each conference, so for me, being able to grab a few minutes and work on a blog post, is really handy.
Remember, a laptop is just that: a laptop. Master the art of balancing it on your lap, or search out any opportunity to sit at a table or desk if there are some available. If not, you can always whip out your tablet or ipad….
#2 Tablet or iPad
I still take my ipad as I use it to either grab a quick photo, or take some notes if I don't want to go to the bother of getting out my laptop. I also use it for tweeting – it's a great tool for social media on the go when at a conference.
Depending on where you are sitting, it's easy to hold vs balancing a laptop. I upgraded from the larger iPad to the iPad mini a year ago, and I love it.
A warning to Android or PC users: I am a mac girl, so substitute the equivalent device for your operating system (where possible).
#3 Smartphone or iPhone
A smartphone is so much more than a phone. It's a phone, a camera, a video recorder, an audio recording device, a writing device and more. You need a smart phone at any conference, let alone a digital conference.
Whether it is for texting, calling or more likely tweeting to other attendees, a smartphone is a must-have tool. But I didn't need to tell you that, did I?
#4 Old-school Notebook or Moleskin
I like to carry a small notebook with me. Sometimes I just like to be old school and write! I am Gen X and we know how to rock a piece of paper just as much as a tweet, and sometimes, my creative brain wants to doodle or write. Of course, if you are a tech-head then run with Evernote or Pages. I love the one I got from OZ Blog Hosting, at Problogger Event last year. I think because it has the words “Ideas” and “Inspire” on it, it makes me want to use it!
Creating Awesome Visuals or Audio
You NEED a camera. A great camera. Now by “great camera” I don't mean the latest DSLR with a lens the length of the ballroom. What I do mean is a camera that works for you – for taking both still shots and short video. The answer may be a smart phone, it may be a small camera that fits in your pocket or it might be an Digital SLR – whatever works for you.
Just make sure you have a system for easily downloading photos and video for quickly sharing on social media (which is where a smart phone is always great) or to your laptop or ipad for sharing on your blog or website.
#6 Monopod or Tripod
A Tripod can be handy for keeping a steady base while interviewing speakers, sponsors or conference attendees for your Blog, Website, or YouTube Channel.
But something I love even more when travelling is my iStabilizer Monopod…it's the ultimate selfie-taker.
In fact, my monopod is great for any type of travel. It allows me to take a selfie or a group photo – gone are the days of asking a stranger to take a photo!
The monopod has a single arm and a handy mount that works with virtually all Smartphones and POV cameras – including GoPro, Countour, Drift, and light camcorders. It's also great for taking steady video as it has the “stabilizing” arm! I. Never. Travel. Without. This. Anymore.
Keeping Things Running
Let's face it, it's pointless having all of the above if you don't have the power to make them work. Here are the essential items you need to pack to keep things running while away:
#7 Cords & Converters
Yes, I am being Captain Obvious here, but seriously, the presence of cords and converters kind of makes or breaks your technology plans:
- Make sure you check off the cord required for each device as you pack and use small bags/compartments to section them off. Avoid tangles!
- Pack a single or double converter plug for each country you visit.
- Pack a power board for extra charging capacity. You will make new friends in an airport or conference session with one of these, trust me! It also makes it easy at night in a hotel room when you need to power up all of your devices ready for the day ahead.
Confession time. I am a charger collector and have more than one for my i-devices. I just can't resist a good Mophie product. As far as I am concerned they are the best and I couldn't live with out them (Note to self: this only works, Donna, if you actually charge them, which – sorry to point this out – you have done twice in the past week, just sayin').
I love my Mophie chargers so much I have 2 of them. I have:
- One Juice Pack for my iPhone (which gives me 80% charge) and
- One Mophie Powerstation – which allows me to charge an iphone and ipad or two ipads!). It's a little bit awesome!
Oh and I also have a lipstick-sized charger called the Power Rod from Brookstone. It's cute enough to deserve a video:
Something To Carry It All In
#9 Laptop Bag or Handbag (or two-in-one!)
A great bag is more important than you think – you will be carting “stuff” around all day. Make sure it is something that is not only sturdy and holds all the right items, but is somewhat stylish, whether you are a lady or a guy! If you need to go straight from conference to dinner, you can do it in style!
In 2013 I upgraded to a beautiful laptop bag from Janie Bartlett's Aussie Company, My Best Friend is a Bag. That original leather bag is well-conference-travelled now, and still gorgeous…but I was itching to get another, to keep it company.
So it was perfect timing when Janie offered a bag for my readers to WIN! (sorry peeps that competition is over and a friendly reader is rocking her Best Friend… a Bag!) ..so I test drove the Chelsea Tote Laptop Bag on my trip to speak at Social Media Marketing World in San Diego in March, 2014. I need not say much other than I got asked multiple times a day from conference attendees “where did you get that bag?”.
The Chelsea is just great for overseas travel and conferences and holds an 11″ or 13″ laptop. If there was one thing I would change is possibly I would take a slightly larger choice of bag from the same series overseas…… but I know what i am like – give me a bigger bag, I stuff it with stuff.
So probably a good thing I stuck with my trusty Chelsea.
Regardless, you need a great bag that you can get your devices and “day” paraphernalia in to, so you can easily move back and forth between sessions and keep all your “stuff” together.
Other Things You Can't Live Without
Most conferences nowadays provide a free WiFi network at the conference, and if it is a quality conference will also provide free WiFi in your room if booked at the same hotel.
However, with huge volumes of people using the free WiFi it can be unpredictable at best if there are thousands of attendees overwhelming the system (I have had seen this happen before). If you get great wireless, then be grateful as it is often a rare thing! Here are some tips:
- To counteract the risk of wireless dropping out, get your own backup wireless. This could be as simple as tethering off your phone hotspot or bringing your own personal wireless plug-in for internet. If you have a multi-user version you will make friends at the conference. Guaranteed.
- If you are in your own country, then take an extra Hotspot of some sort – your own WiFi power that you can use separate to the conference WiFi.
- Upon arrival in a forgeign country, consider getting a local SIM card that includes data (as well as any calls or texts that you think you will use). A data pack can be really useful at a conference, and if you are not in a free WiFi area or in a cafe that provides WiFi. Mostly I will negotiate free WiFi with my hotel accommodation too!
#11 Business Cards
This one needs no introduction. People may say that business cards are dead, with awesome apps that allow you to add contacts to your phone, but I still say that having business cards is very useful.
I don't have to hand them out to everyone but I do hand them out when I connect with someone. And as a speaker, I find it handy to include a link to a page on my website that is a more personal greeting than just sending them to my home page.
Take a set of noise cancelling headphones for the plane or any other time you want to work undistracted… or just escape with some great tunes! They also block out the hum of an airplane and a chatty fellow passenger. If you will be doing skype calls, then you will need a headset with microphone.
If you are flying, don't forget to get a dual prong adaptor so you can use your headphones on the plane system.
#13 External Microphone
And an external microphone is a worthy investment (see #5) to allow you to record audio more clearly. Grab that impromptu podcast or video interview, or your own commentary… and you have quality content to share with your community. You can use a lapel mike or a full size hand-held microphone.
Tips for Networking:
- Do some short interviews with attendees, sponsors, speakers in your industry and release them as a blog or video or audio podcast series. Providing content like this can help to set you up as an expert authority in your industry.
- Take advantage of the between-session breaks to meet people. It can be very valuable. I know speakers who spend more time out of sessions than they do in, just for the purpose of creating great relationships with people. Some of the best social media connections I have made are because of social connections (in real life) at a conference.
- Don't book in too many personal catch-ups with cousins or family or friends – there will be a lot of social events and if you made the effort to come to the conference, be present and connect with people while you are there.
- Jump into the LinkedIn, Twitter, G+ and Facebook groups on offer (whatever platform suits you best). These are especially great before and after the conference.
- Follow up with people you meet – it might be a tweet, a message, an email or a skype call, but don't leave it too long. Try to do it in the week or two after the conference while the buzz is still going!
- Join in the hashtag conversation before the conference, during and after. The first time I did this I really “got” how to use Twitter and was hooked. The best way to learn how to use Twitter is to jump in and play with it.
Over to you. What are your must-have items when packing for a conference? Share your best conference tips below:
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