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Polco News & Knowledge

The Complete Conference Survival Pack

angelica wedell carrying her conference survival kit

Everything you need to pack in your conference survival kit.

Conference season is here! Which means it’s time to pack your bags and prepare to dedicate some time to professional development and networking. While attending these big events do wonders for your career, a marathon of jam-packed schedules, traveling stress, and limited free time can wipe you out. Fortunately, a little extra preparation can help ensure your health and stamina make it through welcome receptions to closing ceremonies. So here are the top ten things you’ll need to complete your conference survival kit.

1. Swag bag

Exhibitor halls always have fun goodies for you to bring home to the office, your kids, or even your dog. But not all conferences provide a good bag to carry all your new loot. So just in case, it’s a good idea to pack your own bag for all your swag, essentials, and the rest of your convention survival kit. 

2. Light jacket or sweater with pockets

Even if the forecast reports hot days and warm nights, you’ll be glad to have a jacket. Most conference venues keep the air conditioning on full blast when they are expecting to house thousands of bodies, so it can feel rather chilly inside. And even when the weather report is sunny, you’ll want to be prepared for unexpected storms. Also, if your business attire does not have pockets, a jacket or sweater can be a great way to add them.

3. Portable cell phone charger

Whether you are Tweeting up a storm with the conference hashtag, taking photos of presentation slides, recording memo notes, or taking business calls, your phone is sure to get a lot of use throughout the conference. A small cell phone charger can save the day when there are no outlets in sight and your battery is about to die.

4. Hand sanitizer

Any event involving a large crowd mingling in the same place is a playground for germs. It’s all the more important to wash your hands frequently and use hand sanitizer to help avoid the conference crud.

5. Hygiene refresher kit

Conference days tend to be long with little free time. You may not have a chance to run back to your hotel room to freshen up after sweating throughout the day. A few personal hygiene items are key to keep in your bag: deodorant, chapstick, lotion, a comb, gum or mints, and tissue for your nose. It’s also beneficial to avoid garlic and onions, so you can meet new people, face to face, with confidence.

6. A pen with a clip

You will definitely want to have a pen on you for notes and exchanging information with your colleagues. And pens are even better when they have a clip, so you can attach them to your bag, your pockets or your notebooks. No more rooting around the bottom of your swag bag for 10 minutes looking for something to write with!

7. A notebook

No writing utensil is complete without paper. Even if you prefer to take notes on your phone, laptop or tablet, a notepad always comes in handy. It’s common to run into people who forgot their business cards, but they still want to give me their information. If you have a notepad ready to go, forgotten cards are no problem!

8. Business cards and a holder

Don’t forget your business cards! They are still the easiest and most professional way to exchange information at a networking function. Keeping them in your pocket works, but it’s better to carry them in a card holder. This way you can organize your own cards and cards you collect, and always have them at the ready.

9. Foldable flats

Many women will feel nothing but loathing for professional heels by the end of the day. Conferences require lots of walking and standing – the perfect recipe for fierce foot fatigue. A pair of foldable flats are a great solution when you need a change of shoes. They aren’t bulky, they look nice, you can put them cleanly in a plastic bag and tuck them into your convention survival kit.

10. A water bottle

It doesn’t take long for the thirst to set in at a busy conference. After lots of talking and walking and sweating, the break nook that only serves coffee and soda simply won’t cut it. A small, refillable water bottle will fit in your survival kit and keep you feeling happy, healthy and hydrated.

11. Healthy snacks

It’s easy to forget to eat at conferences because there are so many conversations and events happening. Keeping healthy snacks in your pack allows you to stay energized or get that small boost once fatigue sets in. Snacks like trail mix, granola bars, and crackers can help you out when you’re in a pinch and need a little something to get through the day. 

12. Backup mask

Even though many places do not require masking, it’s wise to keep one on hand just in case. Conferences are crowded and it’s possible you may start feeling under the weather. You can protect yourself and others by wearing a mask. And with cold and flu season around the corner, it’s hard to predict what might happen. Even if you don’t need it, be prepared by carrying a small and unobtrusive mask in your conference survival kit. 

Come See Us at ICMA

The Polco and NRC team have been going to conferences for decades, and it took some trial and error to discover what makes the perfect pack. But we have even more experience in community engagement and even better tips on how to put resident feedback to use.

If you’re at the ICMA 2022 conference in Columbus, Ohio, come see us at booth #633 to learn more about how community engagement can improve your organization. And be sure to register for our press conference where we'll discuss our new partnership that will bring better data to local government leaders. 

This article originally appeared on elgl.org in 2017.

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