So it’s conference season. Which means…
I’m a seasoned conference goer. Not because of work, but because of family. Without going into too much detail, I was dragged around a lot of conferences when I was younger. And through this training, I’ve come to understand that conferences aren’t events to attend – but trials to survive. Even if you enjoy being there, at some point you’re going to want to be somewhere else.
To that end, here are ten (and a bit) not-so-serious suggestions for things you’ll need to take with you to a conference.
Conferences mean delegates. Delegates mean queues for the loo. Say no to crossed legs and desperate dashes to the WC – ensure you have your own cubicle by taking along your own safety sign. Get to the event early and leave one outside your (now) private porcelain palace. Just make sure to have an exit plan in case you’re caught by a real cleaner.
Paper plates and a mop
Having to sit through a boring talk and want to leave? No problem – simply fake your attendance. Draw your face on a paper plate and then stick it on a mop (this gives your plate a wig. Attention to detail.) Lean the mop upright against the back of your chair. From the speaker’s point of view it will look like you’re still listening, while actually you’re out doing something, anything, else. This trick only works if you’re sitting at the back of the room. (If you leave a mop in your place at the front of the auditorium, everyone will think you’re a nutter.)
If you want to network, you have to shake hands. But when you shake hands, you open yourself up to the lurgy. Best carry some germ-killing gel with you, to make sure you can continue schmoozing without falling unwell. But remember to cleanse your hands discreetly, so that nobody feels you’re being disrespectful.
Unless, of course, you meet a delegate who’s clearly so heinously unwell, all drools, sneezes and coughs, that you have to flick the sanitiser at him like a priest wielding holy water against a vampire. Get back I say, back!
There’s no greater feeling than travelling hundreds of miles to a conference, only to find that your phone / tablet / soul runs out of energy in the middle of a presentation, meaning you can’t take notes, tweet what’s happening or browse Facebook.
Take along a USB battery charger to make sure you’re always topped up. Plus, conferences are hotbeds of passion (and regret). You wouldn’t want your phone to run out of juice just as you’re firing up a dating app to find delegates that are singles and ready to mingles.
If you have to walk between multiple locations for your #conference, you’re going to end up with very sore feet at the end of the day. That’s why you need a bucket. Fill it up with hot water – there should be a kettle in your hotel room – and some herbs like chamomile and arnica and give your plates of meat a good soaking. Bliss.
(Also, you can charge other attendees 50p a minute to use it. Helps pay for your petrol costs and all that.)
That is, a device used to record sound. Not the instrument that people learned at primary school – breaking out into a solo in the middle of a conference is more likely to earn you a trip to the cop shop than a round of applause.
With a digital recorder you can capture all the speeches and even ask people if they’ll give you a short interview. Remember that these machines are meant to record for a long time, so they won’t eat up battery life like your phone will.
We’ve written before about how taking notes by hand helps implant the memories in your brain better than typing them – that’s because you have to summarise handwritten notes, which means you have to pick and choose the relevant information to write down.
But I like notepads because they allow you to write sarcastic messages and pass them around to other audience members. It’s just like being back in school again! (Except if you’re caught here, you’ll get fired rather than suspended. Still, you need to get your thrills somehow, right?)
If you’re attending a multi-day conference, you’ll need to ensure that all the new data you acquire doesn’t get lost. That means having multiple USB sticks and an external drive to back up your data.
Bear in mind that if you’re at a meeting with competitors in your field, you should mark all your drives with your contact details and make sure they’re password protected, just in case an unscrupulous person finds them and tries to pinch your corporate information.
(For counter-espionage, write someone else’s details on a drive and fill it with embarrassing photos. With a bit of luck they’ll appear in a Power Point presentation.)
Headphones and earplugs
If you want a moment to be left alone to work, without other attendees trying to hit you up for a business card, pop in some headphones and stare intently at your laptop or tablet. In the conference world, this is a decent sign that you want to be left alone.
If you’re staying in a hotel, take earplugs. The sound of your neighbours carousing won’t wake you up. Of course these are defensive measures – if you want to go on the offensive, take along a mini-speaker and megaphone and treat those noisy guests to 12-hour rendition of Agadoo by Black Lace.
One thing you can be sure of, is that the venue will never have enough power sockets for all the gubbins you need to plug in. An easy way to make friends and contacts is to take along your own extension lead and let others use it. You then get to introduce yourself to anyone that does – being helpful is a good way to get noticed.
And then you can charge them 50p a minute (kidding).
While everyone else is fidgeting in the conference centre’s buy ’em cheap and stack ’em high folding chairs, you can relax in leathered luxury. For extra comfort and elan bring along your own hip flask of fine whisky and monocle. At the end of the day, get one of your underlings to wheel you to a taxi. Pip pip!
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Previously on The Euroffice Blog…