My favorite conference of the year, INBOUND 2015, is right around the corner, taking place Sept. 8 through 11 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. While the event itself is an excellent experience, the travel associated with it, as with any conference, can sometimes be a complete nightmare.
Delayed flights, lost luggage and other travel inconveniences are a small price to pay for the amazing educational and networking experiences conferences provide. But we would all love to save time and money, as well as reduce stress, right? Use these 15 tips for smooth sailing when planning for your next conference.
1. Book airfare and hotel accommodations using a private browser.
I’m not going to blatantly say that every travel site, airline and hotel shows higher rates depending on where you are browsing from and whether you have visited the site before. What I will say, though, is that often you will get a lower price when you search from a private browser, such as Google Chrome in incognito mode.
2. Make sure you know what transportation apps are available in your destination city.
Not every city has the convenience of Lyft or Uber, so do some research before the event and see what transportation options there are. Make sure you download the app of whatever option is available -- this simple planning allows you to quickly head to your hotel once you touch down.
3. Network on social media with other conference attendees prior to the event.
Let your social-media contacts know you are attending a particular conference. If your network is mostly industry connections, there will be a good chance many of them will also be attending. It’s always nice to know there will be familiar faces at a conference to take in the experiences with.
4. Include a full change of clothes in your carry-on bag.
Lost baggage happens, and if your checked bags contain all of your clothes you could be left scrambling to try to piece together an outfit at the last minute while at the same time attempting to track down your baggage through the airline. Toss a set of clothes in your carry-on to ensure you won’t have to make a frantic last-minute trip to a local mall.
5. Plug your hotel address and conference venue address into your phone.
You will often need to reference the conference venue and hotel addresses when arranging transportation, looking for restaurants and finding evening entertainment. It makes for quick decisions on the go possible -- everything is usually fast-paced so take advantage of any opportunity to save time.
6. Ask for an upgrade at your hotel.
You might be shocked to learn that many hotels will upgrade you for simply asking. Most hotel staff members are extremely accommodating and if there is anything they can do for you they will typically go out of their way to give you any available promotions. Also, don’t forget to ask them if any of your corporate or personal credit cards entitle you to any upgrades.
7. Make dinner reservations far in advance.
Finding a nice place to eat close to the venue hotel, especially at larger conferences, can be a challenge. Save yourself the headache and book dinner reservations in advance. Research places to eat that are close and have good reviews online. When everyone is scrambling to find places with availability, a simple, “We have a couple empty seats at our reservation” is an offer a new connection can’t pass up.
8. Bring a bottle of Advil.
Advil can be your best friend at conferences for many reasons -- uncomfortable hotel beds can mess up your back, happy hours can morph into long nights and staring at small laptop screens all day can cause headaches. Avoid having to seek out a drug store by arriving equipped with a bottle of Advil.
9. A power strip can be your most effective ice breaker.
Everyone in attendance is armed with mobile devices, tablets and laptops -- making power outlets the most valuable commodity at a conference. Throw an entire power strip in your bag. This accomplishes two things -- your devices will never be without a charge and you will become an instant conference hero to those around you.
10. Pack your daily bag with a full day in mind.
Most conferences are all-day events, starting early and going into the evening, followed immediately by a networking happy-hour or dinner event. When you pack your bag for the day make sure you have everything you need, and if you are staying off-site assume you won’t be able to make it back to your hotel room.
You need business cards, your electronic devices, chargers and some snacks to hold you over between scheduled meals. Toss a couple of protein bars in your bag -- when you are hungry it’s harder to focus, so make sure you always have something to snack on.
11. Put your phone in airplane mode to help conserve juice.
During a conference you will primarily be on your laptop, so while you aren’t using your phone switch it to airplane mode so it's not using the Wi-Fi and cellular data. This will help conserve your battery -- and you will have plenty of juice to get you through evening networking.
12. Set up an email auto-reply message.
With modern technology you can take your office with you and work remotely, barely skipping a beat. With that being said, you should still consider setting up an auto-reply message alerting people that you are out of the office and there might be a slight delay in your response. You don’t want to be glued to your email -- if people know you are out of the office you can focus on the event and attend to your email when you have time.
13. Take note of the conference hashtag.
Nearly every conference will have a dedicated hashtag, which will be used prior to the event to build awareness and excitement, during the event to connect everyone in attendance and then after the event to make write-ups and pictures easy to discover.
14. Have a short and effective intro-pitch ready.
One of the biggest benefits of conferences is the networking -- while I’m going to INBOUND 2015 to learn and grow, I’m also going there to network. I’m going with the intention of making new connections as well as exploring opportunities with warm leads -- all of my networking goals revolve around securing new corporate clients for Market Domination Media.
I have short intro pitches in my head so I'm ready for any situation I find myself in. You don’t want to sound like a robot, but you should know how to explain what you do and how you can help in just a few simple sentences.
15. Plan your agenda before arriving at the conference.
If you arrive at a conference without a detailed agenda, you will be left scrambling to find sessions to attend with any open seats. Go through the full lineup and highlight the sessions you absolutely don’t want to miss. Then, start to create a schedule for each day. You should land with a finalized plan so there will by smooth sailing the entire conference.
Do you have some additional travel tips to add to this list? Share them in the comments section below.
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