Having attended four writers’ conferences now, I have a pretty good handle on what I like to bring and what I can happily leave at home. Many times I will pull something out to use it and the person sitting next to me will exclaim, “Oh I wish I’d brought that!” Here are 5 of the things which nearly always earn me that response:
1. Lip balm!
You will be surprised how quickly your lips will dry out after hours and days of talking in a temperature controlled room. Not one to normally need lip balm outside of a visit to the snow, my lips will inevitably begin drying out and cracking the second day of a conference even with repeated use of this stuff. Without it … I shudder to think.
2. A portable battery charger
Using your phone for digital notes, checking your calendar, time checks, and the occasional pop-in to social media during breaks, can be surprisingly draining on your battery. By the time you’re crawling into bed at one in the morning after 14 hours of nonstop learning and networking it can be easy to forget to plug in your phone and the last thing you want is to spend the entire next day asking the person beside you what time it is. So do yourself a favor and pack one of those portable battery charging things (yes that’s the official term) – just don’t forget to charge it before you do!
3. A fine point permanent marker
Over the course of a conference, if you’re networking like you should be, you will find you have collected several business cards from the people you’ve met. In addition to retaining all the wonderful advice the speakers are dispensing, it can be difficult to remember exactly who gave you which card. Thus, I have developed a little trick. I make a note directly on the card in one or two words that will remind me what story that person is working on, or what genre they typically write in, or whatever little personal bit of information I gleaned from our conversation that will help me put the business card to the face later on. You can do this with a regular pen of course, but I have found the glossy surface of some business cards difficult to write on. A permanent marker solves this problem and a fine point ensures that I can fit what I need to write in a tiny space.
4. A disposable floss pick
Yes, seriously. Every conference I have attended has served salad and every conference I have attended there has been someone who comes out of the stalls behind me to find me digging a floss pick from my little pouch and says, “Oh that’s so smart! Do you have an extra?” There have also been two times when I’ve had to very discretely indicate to someone that their lunch was showing. Floss. Bring it. Use it.
The first morning of a conference can be nerve-wracking no matter how many you have attended. Skipping that first meal due to a nervous stomach, though, can leave your stomach rumbling with embarrassing loudness halfway to lunch. You might also find that the provided lunch isn’t quite all you need to make it to the dinner hour. Do yourself a favor and pack a few high protein snacks to help you get through the day. And throw in some water while you’re at it. A well fed belly and hydrated mind will help keep you on your toes and increase your odds of remembering what you’re trying to learn.
BONUS FOR THE LADIES: Feminine Hygiene Supplies
Not your time of the month? Doesn’t matter. We all know stress can do some seriously strange things to our body. The last thing you want is to spend an hour hiding in the bathroom waiting for the next woman to enter and praying she has supplies to spare. Just pack your own. Better safe than sorry.
What about you? What do you find essential to have in your conference bag? Let me know in the comments below!