11 Essential Items to Pack for a Conference

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Have you ever been to an out~of~town business conference? You can have a successful experience if you pack correctly. I’ve learned that there are a minimum of 11 essential items to pack for a conference.

For me, that conference is Haven held in Atlanta. It’s a lifestyle blogger conference that, I’m not being overly dramatic here, changed my life. After my first year, I learned that there are 11 essential items to pack for a conference.

Have you ever been to a work~related conference? A seminar? A networking event? It’s a lot of work. It’s tiring and exhausting and you’ll experience brain overload. But it can be so much fun and so rewarding.

Going to Haven for the 5th time will be a different experience than trips 1, 2, 3, 4 (which was held in Charleston), and 2019 (which was back in Atlanta), and 2020, which was virtual.

How many times in your life has a person, an event, serendipity made a big difference in how you went forward with your life, your career, maybe where you lived? You thought you were going one way and you ended up making a right turn, or even a u~turn. It’s happened to me twice. (Maybe that’s an idea for a future post.)

When I first went to Haven in 2015, my blog had not launched, although I was working on the development with a web designer. I had no idea what to expect, how to write a blog, or promote a blog. I just knew that I wanted to write and share. (Since then, I have figured how why I love writing a blog.)

I had just started using Pinterest and had never heard of Instagram or Twitter. SEO, CTA, and DSLR was a foreign language. I had been to a few conferences in other careers, so I knew to bring business cards, but that was about it.

It’s hard to say which Haven is the best. I always like to think it’s the most recent one. I did love Haven 2017: I knew what to expect, had friends to see again, and I knew the classes I needed the most. And I knew exactly what to pack, not too much and not too little. Now I have the list down to 11 essential items to pack for a conference ~ especially Haven; it’s a fine~tuned list.

11 Essential Items to Pack for a Conference

Sweet Shark and I are flying to Atlanta tomorrow for a few days of family time. He flies home on Wednesday and my mindset will turn to Haven, which begins on Thursday. My suitcase is almost packed and ready to go. You can bet that it has these 11 essential items for a conference.

Here is what I wrote 5 years ago when I was getting ready for my 2nd trip to Haven:

“Last year was an overwhelming experience and the reason that I’m sitting here today, writing to you every week. When I first attended Haven, I didn’t know 10% (I actually should change that percentage to 0.) of what I know today about blogging, Pinterest, Instagram, SEO, or photography. This year has been one of the most fun, but challenging and rewarding of my life (I’m not counting marriage or motherhood!).

There was never any doubt in my mind that I would be going back to Haven. Not just to learn more, but to reconnect with the wonderful women bloggers I met last year and meet new blogger friends. This community is truly one of the most generous I have ever been a part of.”

Years (and years) ago, as a Mary Kay Consultant, I attended their celebrated Seminar several times. Later, as an account executive with a staffing company, I attended sales training seminars. The world was a bit different then. We had cell phones, but no iPods or laptops. We had to dress up in business attire.

Today’s conferences require more planning and preparation. Each year I feel more prepared for Haven than I was the previous year.

If you are a first~time Haven attendee ~ that is what is called a newbie~ or if you have ever gone to any conference or seminar, here are my suggestions for 11 essential items to pack to make your experience more rewarding and less stressful.

Haven 2019 logo

COMFORATBLE SHOES AND CLOTHES

First on my list of essential items to pack for a conference is shoes. You will be on your feet, walking either from your hotel to the conference, walking around the conference, seeking out your next class location, or just standing and visiting with others.

I recommend flats with good support. They can still be cute. I love cute sneakers.  It’s also good to bring a pair of flip~flops or slippers for wearing in your room.

TIP: Do not wear brand new shoes to a conference without breaking them in first. You don’t want to get blisters at a conference.

pile of shoes on floor

CLOTHES TIP: You will need clothes for 3 days and 2 or 3 nights. People dress comfortably, but I would say a little bit dressy casual; slacks, nice jeans, or dressy shorts are O.K. Keep it simple. It really depends on what type of conference you are attending. (I remember attending sales conferences in heels, hose, and a suit. Thank goodness, those days and that career are long gone.)

Pack things that don’t need to be ironed. At Haven, it’s July in Atlanta and it’s hot outside.

Fortunately, at Haven, several restaurants are within walking distance. Most people wear the same thing to dinner that they’ve worn all day, but if you feel like changing, a casual dress or skirt is fine. Personally, I love summer dresses and find them cooler than slacks or jeans.

summer dresses

White jeans are a must; you can dress them up with heels and jewelry. White jeans ~ never leave home without them. I just bought a second pair of the exact same jeans that I love from Chicos.

clothes

MEDICATIONS

I know this is something that we do when we travel, but it’s just a reminder. I have terrible hay fever and I hate to be sneezing in the middle of someone’s presentation. Also, if you wear contacts like I do, bring extras.

11 Essential Items to Pack for a Conference ~ what you should take to a conference and why; things you should do when you are at a conference.

BUSINESS CARDS

This is a must ~ one of the most essential items to pack for a conference. No matter the size of the conference, you will be meeting new people with who you will want to connect. You can’t remember all of them and they can’t remember you.

Your business card allows fellow attendees to check out your blog or company when they return home. New friends, new contacts, new opportunities.

At Haven many of the vendors have drawings and you will want to leave your business card with them. I have ordered my business cards from MOO for 4 years and I absolutely love them. They have the best paper, templates, and fastest delivery that I’ve found. I ordered new ones for 2019 with my new blog photo and social media information. I love that you can print on both sides.

TIP: Use both sides of your card!

Since Haven 2020 was virtual and none of my information has changed, I have plenty to use for this year.

Moo Business cards

TIP: I highly recommend that you include your picture on your business cards. It helps people remember you better. I had a new photo taken for branding just before Haven 2019 and it’s still my brand photo. I like business cards that are easy to read with white space and have BIG fonts!

I’ve seen people asking how many business cards to bring. Keep in mind that over 400 bloggers attend Haven, plus all the vendors. I ordered 400 before Haven 2019 since it’s less expensive the more you order. I have plenty to use again this year.

NOTE: If you haven’t ordered new business cards, I would order ASAP. Here is the contact for MOO (25% off first order) that I highly recommend for the quality and design features. You could have them mailed directly to the conference hotel.

I carry my business cards in an aqua card case. I put as many as possible in my card case and replenish them as needed. It also gets a label.

TIP: Just like summer camp, label everything. I made stickers using Avery.com (It’s one of my weaknesses.) to label my iPad, battery charger, business card holder and inside my notebook.

aqua business card holder

YOUR IPHONE AND IPAD OR LAPTOP

Yes, I know we never leave home without them, but DO NOT FORGET THEM!! You will want to take pictures, add contacts, look up other people’s blogs, Google someone. If you are a blogger, you may need to write, edit or schedule a post, PIN, Tweet, or Instagram while you are at the conference.

TIP: I schedule all posts and as many Pinterest and Instagram posts as possible before I leave home. I use Tailwind for this.

Haven has an awesome app to register for classes or change classes that you will want to access.

iPad to pack for a conference

EXTRA: I listen to Podcasts all the time now, so I’m bringing my earbuds with me.

YOUR CHARGERS

OMG, there’s nothing worse than being away from home and not be able to charge your phone, iPad, or camera. There are outlets everywhere. Be prepared.

iPad to pack for a conference

I just bought a heavy~duty phone charger for carrying in my purse. I labeled it too.

battery phone charger

A NOTEBOOK AND PENS

Although I use NOTES on my phone for many topics, I find that good old pen and paper are best for taking notes at a seminar. You’ll remember more and retain more information with handwritten notes. (Former English teacher speaking here.) I still refer to my notebooks from every year at Haven.

notebooks to pack for a conference

For 2021, I’m going to use a previous notebook that had plenty of space for another year of note~taking.

pink notebook

I suggest putting your name, phone number, e~mail address inside just in case it gets left somewhere. (That happened to me in 2017 ~ thanks to Lani Padilla of Restored 316 for finding it.). Be sure to have at least a couple of pens. I hate trying to take notes with a pen that doesn’t work.

business label

TIP: You can also tape your business card inside the cover. Since it has your picture on it (Right?), when someone finds it, they might remember you and text you.

AN EXTRA SUITCASE OR TOTE

Many conferences give attendees “swag bags” full of goodies donated by sponsors. Haven has wonderful swag bags and vendors give away product samples, too. It’s like Christmas.

After you receive your swag bag at registration, you can leave it in your hotel room and go through the content on breaks. Also, you may make a project in a workshop that you want to take home.

My first year at Haven I had no idea this would be the case. I had to ship home a box of great stuff.  Since then, I always take an extra suitcase. Having an extra carry~on bag to take extra goodies home will make your return trip easier. Even if you have to pay for an extra bag on the flight home, it’s cheaper than shipping

TIP: If possible, remove the goodies from their packaging.  You will be able to pack more in less space and your extra suitcase will weigh less.

red suitcases

A LIGHT SWEATER OR SCARF

Hotels conference rooms can be cold. Personally, I don’t function well when I’m cold. A light sweater that you can tuck in your purse will be a lifesaver when the air~conditioner is blasting.

colored scarves

A LARGE PURSE OR TOTE 

Besides all the usual stuff we carry in our purses (lipstick, wallet, lotion), you’ll need space for your iPhone, your iPad, your phone charger, notebook, and business cards.

Leave anything you absolutely don’t need (checkbook, extra credit cards, pictures of the kids, car keys) either at home or lock them in your hotel room safe.

The less stuff you have to carry around, the better. In 2017 I bought a new bag in Atlanta a few days before the conference started. Of course, I had to have it monogrammed. I took it to Haven in 2018 and 2019. It will definitely be coming to Atlanta with me again this year.

monogrammed tote in pink and blue

YOUR CONFERENCE SCHEDULE

Haven allows you to schedule which classes on which days you want to attend. I print mine off before I leave home and also save it on my phone. You can change your mind if you want, but I think it will make your conference more rewarding if you do some pre~conference planning.

Listen to what classes others have been to and their recommendations. This is my Haven schedule for 2021. I highlight the classes I want to attend. I’m sure I’ll change my mind before and during the conference.

Haven schedule

TO CAMERA OR NOT TO CAMERA?

The first year I had my (first) DSLR camera was 2016. I was so excited to have it that I brought it to the conference.  To tell you the truth, it’s heavy and bulky and I didn’t really need it.

I brought it to Haven again in 2017, but left it in my hotel room. I haven’t brought it since and haven’t missed it one bit. Since you may want to upload photos to Facebook or Instagram, your iPhone works just fine. Just telling ya.

A SMILE! 

Here’s the easiest essential item to pack for a conference.

You will be meeting hundreds of people each day: at meals, waiting for a class to start, asking questions of a seminar presenter, vendors.

I can’t tell you how much a smile and a hello will open the door to meeting fantastic people. Don’t be hesitant to speak first. I’m not shy and I’ve been in sales before so I know the importance of saying hello.

BIG TIP: Remember that everyone is in a different place in their blogging journey. If you are a newbie and it’s your first Haven, what you need to learn is different from someone who has been blogging for years.

Focus on what YOU need, what speakers you think will help you right now. Your best buddy may be way ahead of you or behind you on this crazy blogging journey, so don’t think you have to stick together. You are at Haven to benefit YOU.

If you don’t know what to say, just smile and introduce yourself (“Hi, I’m Carol and I blog at BlueskyatHome.com.”) as you hand the other person your business card.

TRUE HAVEN STORY

My first Haven at the newbie reception, I went up to someone and said, “Hi, I’m Carol and I’m from Dallas. They said Hi, I’m Susie and I blog at superdooper.com. I wasn’t sure where that was. Repeat with the next person, “Hi, I’m Carol and I’m from Dallas. They said, Hi, I’m Kathy and I blog at myblogisbest.com. Uh?

About the 4th time, I introduced myself and they introduced themselves, I finally figured out that the name of your blog is how you introduce yourself. I felt like an idiot, but I didn’t make that mistake again.

When they hand you their card (if they don’t, ask for theirs), look at it, make note of the name of their blog. If you’re a bit hesitant about opening a conversation, here are some questions:

  • Ask where they are from
  • How long they have been blogging
  • What do they blog about
  • Is this their first time to Haven (or the name of the conference)
  • Are they having fun
  • What classes they have been to that they really thought were beneficial
  • What class they are going to next
  • Who’s their mentor
  • If you have read their blog, tell them ~ we all love to hear that!

Trust me, you’ll find plenty in common with the other attendees (same state, same town, same college, same number of kids). I am still in contact with several other bloggers I met my first year. These people become your friends.

If you recognize someone whose blog you read (and admire), tell her so. It’s cool when you meet people who were only 1 inch tall on their blog and they are real people.

EXTRA TIPS

After you arrive, here are a few things I suggest:

  1. If you are going with a friend, split up to meet new people and attend different classes, if you are on the same level. Step out of your comfort zone.
  2. Make Time to Visit the Vendors ~ I didn’t know how important this was my first 2 years, so in 2017 I really made an effort to stop by as many vendors as I could. Remember, they want to meet you. They have products (You won’t believe the amount of stuff they bring!) that they want to show you. They want you to write about their products. Have your elevator speech ready!
  3. If you want to go out to dinner, don’t wait for others to invite you. Invite them!
  4. Ask as many questions as you can of other bloggers, especially successful ones.
  5. Get a good night sleep. As much fun as conferences are, they are tiring. You are on a different schedule, your brain is on overload, you may be in a different time zone, and you are eating differently. It’s invigorating and exhausting at the same time. If you need to, find a quiet place, turn off your phone, and just chill for 10 minutes. You’ll feel so much better.
  6. Don’t carry cash. During the conference, you really don’t need cash. Anything inside the hotel, you can charge to your room. I carry only my driver’s license, my debit card, 1 credit card, and my insurance cards. Lock your valuables up in the room safe when you leave the room.

Whatever conferences you attend, I hope these suggestions for 11 essential items to pack for a conference increase your enjoyment and your take~away!

If you are going to Haven, please introduce yourself. I can’t wait to meet you.

See you in Atlanta.

pin for later graphic in blue

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55 Comments

  1. Thank you for this, Carol!! I just can’t wait to get there and reading things like this helps boost confidence. 🙂

    We are going to have fun!!

  2. Thanks for this list – I, too, order MOO cards, love them and look forward to giving them out to new friends. Oh, I will be attending the Haven Conference for the first time. I am both excited and nervous and fortunate to be travelling with Maria from Simple Nature Décor! Hope to meet you there! We share a love of cooking and chalk paint!
    Sandra
    http://www.lowcountryfelicitylife.com

  3. Dumb question….how do I tag you or other bloggers so I can find and read you daily. I am still remembering to catch up with you and search you out daily

    1. Michelle, so happy you asked. On the sidebar of my blog, there is a place that says sign up to FOLLOW. Fill in your information and anytime I post, you’ll receive it in your inbox. Thank you so much for reading. I really appreciate it.

  4. Great tips, thank you for sharing at The Really Crafty Link Party this week. I sort of envy you right now, I would love to go to Haven but sadly, I live too far. Enjoy your conference!

  5. You know I am a nervous wreck about attending my very first Haven next week, but excited, too! But I had no idea about signing up for the sessions…do I need to do that? Help! I need some guidance!

    1. Debi, can’t believe that Haven is over. What an awesome conference. I hope you had a wonderful experience, learned a lot and met some wonferful new friends.

  6. Carol! Thanks so much for the advice! I’m attending Haven for the first time this year, and I’m a little nervous, but super excited. I hope to see you this year!

    1. Rae, well, by now, you know that there’s nothing to be nervous about. Everyone is so giving and helpful. I hope you had a great experience. It was an amazing conference.

  7. I’m going boohoo over here for not going to Haven this year! Hopefully next year! Have fun and learn lots of new info.

  8. AWESOME post, Carol… SO helpful for this newb! One question… the extra bag/suitcase for the swag… If you are bringing one suitcase with you for carry-on already, do you end up having to check one bag on the way home? Or do you just bring a bay that you can fit under the seat, along with your purse? Is it just cheaper and easier to ship it home (from the hotel)?

    1. Hi Julie, The first year I brought 1 suitcase and ended up shipping a box home (after leaving some things with my daughter who lives in Atlanta. Since then, I just bring an extra carry~on. I check my suitcase in and bring the empty carry~on on the plane. We get one free bag with American so it doesn’t cost me anything. You could fold up a duffle bag inside your suitcase and fill it for the return trip. Hope that helps.

      1. Thanks… I think I’m going to see how much it would approximately cost to ship home… since I don’t believe I get a free checked bag. Thanks, Carol!

  9. Have fun. I’d love to go to Haven. I’ve learned a lot by the seat of my pants. I just wonder where I’d be if I’d gone to Haven early on. Thanks for sharing at Keep In Touch.

  10. What a wonderful and informative post! I’ve been blogging for ~3 years, but this is my first Haven. This has such great tips for conference newbies such as myself! I can’t wait!!!

    1. April, thank you so much for your feedback. I’m so happy that his information was helpful. I wish I’d known it my first Haven. Please look for me at Haven, smile and say hi!!

  11. GREAT tips Carol!

    I can’t wait to see you at Haven! I’ll be leaving early, after the closing.

    I wish I liked wearing dresses, they really are cooler than jeans. 🙁

    see ya soon!
    gail

  12. Now I’m wondering if I have enough business cards! 😬 May have to do a rush order! Can’t wait to meet you in person!

    1. Hi Jen. One year I had my business cards sent to my daughters house in Atlanta. You can definitely send them to the Hyatt. Get the correct mailing info first. See you there.

    1. Juliet, happy the checklist was helpful. I hope you have a wonderful experience at Haven. Hope to see you.

  13. Hi Carol, I’m Eliana with Why Not Redesign in Frisco and I will be at Haven this year (2021). I am a newbie!
    I hope to meet you there.
    Thanks for the wonderful blog and feedback.
    Eliana

  14. Such a great post, Carol. Love all of the tips. I will be a newbie this year and so excited to attend Haven.

  15. Great list; I noticed you also seemed to keep it to fewer color schemes; I went off for a 3 day weekend 20+ years ago with an all ORANGE wardrobe. Made it simple! One vacay we bought a $20 duffel to bring home souvenirs! Another year I mailed my laundry home to carry home treasures; they laughed at me but it worked!

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