Community Recommendations: What Do You Bring With You to a Conference?

There’s only so much you can bring along with you to a conference. So how do you know what you might desperately need and what’s won’t be missed if you leave it at home?

In this post, we reached out broadly to a wide range of people – including our eLearning Guild communities on Facebook and LinkedIn, regular conference attendees on Twitter, and the Guild Ambassadors and Advisory Board – and got suggestions for what they find most useful to have on-hand for in-person events.

Have your own suggestions to add? Be sure to include them in the comments!


Jennifer Murphy: Bring a water bottle, a portable phone battery charger, protein bars, and more business cards than you think you will need (and store them in your conference lanyard).


Megan Torrance: I bring my own travel coffee mug. It is larger than the little tiny ones at the coffee service at most hotels. And it means I’m not constantly throwing out a disposable cup.


Tracy Parish: Bring a pedometer. It’s truly amazing how many steps you’ll clock from the moment you leave your home until the moment you return: tens of thousands.


Kevin Thorn: I bring three pair of footwear.

  1. Travel and lounging shoes. These are usually athletic shoes or hiker-style shoes. First, there’s no metal eyelets for those pesky delays at airport security. This pair of shoes serves as travel wear and for evenings when you want to dress down for dinner.
  2. A good, comfortable business casual or dress shoe with excellent support. I’d love to have a different pair of shoes per day but that’s not practical. What is practical is taking care of your arches and heels!
  3. This is optional: a pair of flip-flops or sandals. When the day is done and I’m relaxing in my hotel room I wear flip-flops. They come in handy when there’s a need to go down the hall for some ice and the whole socks and shoe thing is a bother.

Dawn Mahoney: Dongles! I find that with newer tech that I own, I might need to have a few different options with me, just in case


Jennifer Murphy: At least one box of these.


Cara North: It’s simple, but I can’t go anywhere without a water bottle and gum


Anthony Altieri: Bring a battery for your phone so the rest of us don’t a) step on your phone, plugged into the wall and left sitting on the floor, or b) trip over you sitting on the floor next to any available outlet you can find. And water. Stay hydrated.


Alan Natachu: A decent usb battery pack for your phone, business cards (newbie mistake last year), pens, a small notepad (because electronics die). And for us introverts out there, a willingness to step out our shells and make connections.


Heidi Matthews: A snack


Debbie Richards: I bring batteries for mouse and other stuff. Download apps. Water bottle. Snacks. Comfy shoes. A sweater for cold rooms.


Charles T. Stella: I like to pack a squeeze ball to keep my hands occupied so I can focus better on the speaker.


Paul Venderley: I remember a post recommending you bring a plug bar as a sort of networking device. create friends with energy, so to speak. Electrical outlets are the modern-day water cooler.


Dawn Mahoney: When it comes to bringing a “clicker” for presentations, here’s the one I like best. A friend used this one in a class today – it might be my new fave.


Kevin Thorn: It is not a matter of if, rather it is a matter of when a cable breaks or is left behind. Bring at least one extra cable. If your devices all use the same cable, then one extra cable should be fine. If you have multiple devices that use different cables, bring an extra cable for each.


Tracy Parish: A water bottle is helpful. Also a portable battery pack for your phone.


Tricia Ransom: An extension cord. Frosted strawberry pop tarts are always in my bag. Seriously, gum and floss. And breath mints. I can no longer travel without my power brick!


Steve Howard: I try to bring as little as possible. Some people seem to lug a suitcase of stuff along with them every day. These days I try to stick to just business cards (stuffed into the conference badge lanyard if possible), my wallet and my hotel room key. I’ve largely stopped taking notes (bad Steve), but I must guiltily admit to taking pictures of slides.


Jane Bozarth: Ukulele.


Claudine Caro: Bring a power strip and make instant friends.


Tabatha Dragonberry: Bring a light coat or sweater. Many times conferences rooms are cold.


Kari Knisely:

  • Note taking preference: laptop, pad of paper, iPad, etc.
  • Networking plan: A plan for how you intend to connect and stay in touch with contacts you meet. Maybe locating on LinkedIn and sending a message so you recall how you met them or writing down something about them you remember on their business card so you can later reach out and remember who they were. There are even apps for that
  • The conference hashtag to use in all social media posts

Dave Ferguson: Make friends with strangers:

  • Simple version (“3 outlet adapter”)
  • Lifelong friends version (“3 outlet adapter usb”)

Anthony Altieri: Not sure if this counts, but I always look ahead of the conference for what is close to the hotel. For example, if you forget your USB battery pack, there is a Walgreens across the street.  You’ll likely find one there cheaper than you will at the hotel gift shop.


Mike D.: Here is a post I did on this topic.


Shannon Tipton: Looking for lists? I gotcha your lists, including how to plan your conference experience. Here’s the one I wrote before the ICE conference last year, an add on to the one I wrote for LSCon a few years back.


Bianca Woods: And while we’re sharing posts on this topic, here’s a short video I put together on what I like to bring along each day at a conference.


Valary Oleinik: Sweater/layer – check, portable battery – absolutely, water bottle – stay hydrated, and lip balm – chatty chatty reapply, and a Sharpie because I still get cards and stuff from peeps that regular pens won’t write on and I like to make myself a note about followup/what we talked about.


Zsolt Olah: If you have one of those mobile chargers that has multiple outputs, you can make friends by sharing outlets.


Dave Ferguson: I’m a fast typist but need a real keyboard. If I’m using just smartphone or tablet to take notes, I bring an inexpensive Bluetooth keyboard. And for any battery-powered device, bring your own spare so you don’t need to buy one in the Grand Ballroom mid-session.


Meg Bertapelle: Portable mobile device battery charger! And cords!! I also like to have my iPad and stylus with a note taking app. Soda if you’re a soda drinker – not provided at all breaks and really expensive at conference centers.


Jac Hutchinson: Water, gum, chapstick, hand cream – in my bag with a sweater, a notebook to write in, and several pens. if I know I’m going to be gone a while (like 7am to 9pm), I include a portable toothbrush and paste.


Michelle Monroe: Business cards and different color pens/markers!  I think in colors.


Rance Greene: Bring an interesting story about what you do and how it impacts the people you create learning for. Be prepared to share it and ask it of others. And bring a jacket for the sometimes cold rooms.


Clark Quinn: Bring a question you want answered at the end of the conference.


Judy Katz: Pockets. No, really. If you’re speaking, there’s nowhere better to put a wireless mic transmitter… and if you’re not speaking, they’re still useful for snacks.


Tracy Parish: “Pack your smile and extra hellos.” There is no need to walk around the event and not know anyone. The Guild is a community and at no better time is that displayed than at one of these events. Say good morning to the others in the Morning Buzzes, say hello to the person you sit next to at the keynote, or chat with someone at lunch. You’ll be amazed at how many new connections you can make if you just say hello.

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