Attending conferences and events is a great way to learn industry best practices and network with other like-minded professionals. But working outside the office can be challenging if you’re not well-prepared. As frequent conference-goer, on behalf of the RingCentral social media team, I have made my fair share of misses and mistakes. Luckily, I’m a quick learner! Below, is my list of essential items to bring when attending conferences.
Did I miss a must-have conference item? Let me know in the comments section below.
1. Smartphone – This shouldn’t be a difficult item to remember, since every business professional is often tethered to their smartphone anyway. Beyond the obvious functions of voice calls, texts and emails, use your smartphone to follow/participate in the conference’s Twitter stream. The smartphone camera is also a great asset for snapping photos of presentation slides or recording videos of speakers.
2. Broadband Wireless Card – Most conferences offer free Wi-Fi, but the connections are almost always slow because attendees are accessing the same network and maxing out the bandwidth. If you don’t want to play the Wi-Fi lottery and risk the frustration of connectivity issues, bring your own hotspot. I like the Verizon MiFi hotspot, which gives me secure and fast internet access. Bonus: if you happen to meet a new business contact, you can show them what a kind soul you are by sharing your personal hotspot.
3. Chargers – Mark my words: you will run out of battery juice on whichever device(s) you bring. Bring chargers for all the devices you plan on using. Tip: purchase an extra set of chargers for your most well-used gadgets and reserve that set expressly for conferences and travel.
4. Power Strip – Even if you come prepared with all the necessary gadget chargers, there’s no guarantee you’ll find an outlet that is conveniently located or not already in use. That’s why a power strip can be handy — use only one power outlet to charge multiple devices. Even if you don’t need to charge multiple devices, you’ll be a hero to others in need when you offer up the extra outlets from your power strip. Power strips are relatively inexpensive, and these days you can find hybrids that also offer USB ports.
5. iPad/Tablet – While laptops are popular items to bring to events, they aren’t easy to lug around all day. Tablets are great conference companions because they’re smaller and lighter than a laptop, yet easier to type and navigate on than a smartphone. And if you have trouble typing on a tablet, you can always use a portable keyboard that connects to your tablet.
6. Business Cards – If you forget to bring business cards, it’s going to be tough to connect and follow up with other attendees you meet. Don’t be that person desperately looking for a pen and scrap paper to scribble down your contact information — chances are, your “business card” will be mistaken as trash. So bring business cards or have a paperless alternative like the CamCard app.
7. Get the App – Conferences are increasingly offering custom apps that include event agendas and the ability to build personal schedules that sync with your Outlook calendar. Some apps even allow you to view a list of attendees and connect directly with individuals to schedule meetings. Consulting an app is so much easier than carrying around a conference brochure!
8. Gum/Mints – If you’re at a conference, then you’re talking to people. If you’re talking to people, don’t be a turn-off by having bad, stale breath. Have gum or mints on you (mints are better because you don’t want to be chomping away while you’re conversing). And be kind to anyone who asks for some.
9. Confidence – Events are great opportunities to make business connections so don’t squander the time by being shy. Get your confidence on! Scope out attendees ahead of time, and make a list of people you want to meet. Introduce yourself to a particular speaker after an especially insightful presentation. If you’re mining for prospects, have your company pitch ready and deliver it with oomph!
10. RingCentral app – The RingCentral app is an invaluable part of any mobile professional’s toolkit. With the app installed on your Android or iOS device, you can place VoIP calls over a Wi-Fi or cellular network, change your phone system settings on the fly (e.g., have your desk phone calls forwarded to your cellular phone), and view and forward fax messages. The RingCentral app puts your phone system in your pocket, keeping you plugged in and connected from just about anywhere — even while you’re at a conference. End shameless plug.