In my new role, I’ll be attending and hosting lots of conferences and meetups. This means traveling probably as much as twice a month to other places, and that means lugging all the stuff a technological nomad needs to take along to stay viable. Here’s a list that I’m compiling that contains some obvious and maybe not-so-obvious pre-plans.

Pre-Conference Travel Checklist

  • Clothes. This is a given to TAKE clothes, but be sure to have a mix of multi-use, casual-to-faux-formal clothes. Take fitness clothes, if you can, too.
  • Toiletries. The US has just approved using a quart-sized sealable plastic bag full of travel-size toiletries (shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, etc).
  • Business Cards. ALWAYS bring business cards. If you’re not traveling for your day job, print your own at somewhere like VistaPrint.
  • If you print your own, add WHAT YOU DO FOR OTHERS/WHAT YOU WANT FROM OTHERS on the card. (Example: Chris Brogan. Pulvermedia. Looking to meet and talk about the future of video on the internet.)
  • Chargers. This is the one most people miss. Double check that you have one charger for each piece of gear.
  • Transfer cables. I shot movie footage a few weeks ago, and then couldn’t display it anywhere because I didn’t have the right cable to share it.
  • Energy bars. Plane snacks are fewer and further between, and hotel snacks aren’t that great either. Take a half dozen energy bars for quick, good, calories.
  • Reading material and an mp3 player. There’s lots of travel time wasted. Take podcasts and books/magazines with you.
  • USB thumb drive(s). Take one for your data, but consider picking up a cheapie 32MB one to give out, if need be. Smaller and easier to manage than bringing along CDs or DVDs to burn, depending on the size of the media you want to share.
  • 3×5 cards or a notepad, and a pen. Are you kidding? This is on EVERY list.
  • Maps. Use your mapper of choice: Google? MapQuest? Yahoo? but use one. Map out all the parts of the city or cities that you’ll be traveling. Get directions both ways (to and from). Build these into a little binder, if you want, or at least color-tag them so that you know which one to pull out when.
  • Accommodation info. I *always* forget the name of the hotel I booked, because there are often multiples tapped for an event. I also share this with family and friends, so that people know where to find me in an emergency.
  • Prescriptions. Make sure your medicine needs are up to date. Sometimes, you can contact your doctor and ask for an additional prescription, just in case you run into trouble somewhere else. This’ll save you some time, especially if your med is important.
  • Bring a crapload (technical term) of Ziplok gallon bags, and maybe some quart bags, too. They’re insanely useful, for millions of things.
  • A roll of duct tape beats a lint brush any day. If you don’t want the whole role, peel off a long strip and re-wrap it carefully.

Targeted Planning

So here’s something people rarely do before attending a conference: target who’s going to attend. If you’re going to a trade show in your industry, get out on the site’s attendee list, see who’s coming, and look for the following:

  • Company blogs.
  • Technorati mentions.
  • Personal blogs of attendees.
  • Industry news in general.

You could build a reasonably robust packet of information through a quick (but deep) read through your RSS reader of choice. (I like Bloglines for a web-side reader). And this will give you more conversation grist for the conference. Further, if you happen to need something, on behalf of your company or yourself, you’ll have the pre-knowledge of who’s doing what in your industry. If you learn that people are hiring, or that someplace just had a layoff, you might even find a new job, or fill the jobs you need filled at your company.

Networking Tips

Lots of people forget that conferences aren’t just about the expo floor and the presentations. It’s about getting to know other people in your industry (or in the area of your passion), and echanging ideas. The key element of this happening at the show is your pitch. What are you going to say to start an engaging conversation? I’ve mentioned going to 15 Second Pitch before to learn some great tips, and build your own pitches online for free. But here’s another tip to go with that one: Build a great 5 second soundbite, a 15-30 second teaser, a 2 minute trailer, and then the full boat conversation. What?

The 5 second soundbite is what you say shortly after people look for your badge (wear this on your right side, if you shake right-handed). It should NEVER be your job title. It should be something about what you do, what you’re looking for, or what you offer. (By the way, I’m not the expert. Laura is. Go see her for details).

Tthe 15-30 second teaser is like the warmup to tell people just a little more if they bite on your soundbite. This should give them just a little more of the story, to show the other person where they fit into your ecosystem.

The 2-3 minute trailer is like a movie trailer. You’ve gotta show the best of your idea/offering/whatever in this 2-3 minutes, because this is your shot. You watch trailers, right? Do they help you decide whether to see a movie or not? Of course. Make your trailer really compelling, but then, you have to deliver.

The rest is just the full conversation. Remember to give the other person time to talk. Make your presentation about them, as best as you can. Give them chances to exit the information dump, in case they’re being polite instead of interested. (This will save you both time). And always be courteous to people’s time. They’re there to meet lots of people, too.

After the Show

First and foremost, reconnect with your family and loved ones. Give them attention, and try not to lead off by talking about all the crazy things that happened to you. Ask your spouse (who cared for your kids while you were gone) or your boyfriend or whoever details about THEIR experience while you were gone. Listen to them. Ask questions. Give them a chance to feel at the heart of your attention. (This is the best advice I can give you for your relationship with regards to travel).

I’ve already covered this before, but to recap, make sure you send a brief email to every business card you received at the event –Remember: it’s YOUR job to GET cards, not give yours out. That’s a bonus– with tidbits of specific things you and the other person talked about at the event. Do this as quickly as possible. Keep the contact fresh. This will reinforce the person’s memory of you at the event, and promote a better feeling about what you and the other person might do in the near term.

Reset your toiletries. These are the things that eat up annoying time when you’re ready to travel next, because you forgot to bring them.

Your Tips and Add-Ons

You know me. I love to end these things looking for your feedback. I love adding to the conversation. If you do it here, great. If you do it on your site, send a trackback. But let’s keep the conversation going. I bet someone could even take the first few lists and upload them into our wiki and build even more around them. But let’s keep the conversation going. Okay?

– Chris Brogan keeps a blog at [chrisbrogan.com]. He’s just joined pulvermedia as a Community Developer for Video On the Net, a conference about the future of tv and movies delivered over the net.

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