What to bring
A Notebook – Chances are you will be bringing your laptop, cell phone and maybe even an iPad. These devices all run on batteries, wifi and cellular service. Without one or the other you are up a creek without a paddle! Make sure that if you have your tentative schedule saved in your phone, that you also have it backed up in paper form. A notebook will also help if your computer battery dies right in the middle of a crucial panel and you want to continue taking notes.
Two Pens – I stress bringing two pens for two reasons: 1. You will need a backup in case pen number fails to write at some point or gets lost during the tech conference. 2. Someone is bound to ask you to borrow one at some point if his or her battery dies. Being prepared for other’s needs is a great icebreaker if you need an easy way to spur natural conversation with strangers.
Business cards – Speaking of networking, don not leave home without business cards! If you need to get some printed on the fly before the big day, Moo has a great selection of customizable designs to chose from that can make your card stand out from the rest in the pack.
Protein-Rich Snacks – Stock up on a few power bars and a small bag of nuts before the tech conference. They are small items can be tucked away easily in your computer bag. And, they also have enough substance to tide you over for a couple hours in case you missed lunch to check in with work.
A small power strip – Share the one random outlet you find near the bathrooms of the conference center and you are guaranteed to start a conversation with others who share the same power-drained plight. You will also benefit from the essential battery power you need to get you through another hour or two. It’s a win-win! Be the person who saved the day.
Gum or Mints – This is another conversation starter that is a hygienic bonus for you. Instead of nervously acting like you are checking your text messages when you feel like a tech conference wallflower, take out a stick of gum and ask if someone wants a piece. You will also be prepared if someone asks you for some. Another win-win for you!
Tide To Go – Nothing is worse spilling coffee on your shirt at 8 AM before the first session even begins. Tide To Go pens work wonders with small stains so that you can eliminate at least one cause of stress for the day.
What to Wear
A flexible outfit – At a conference you want to be comfortable, yet classy. To take this strategy to the next level, experiment with your wardrobe to find a look that will go from day to night with minimal changing of accessories. This tactic will be a huge time saver. You will be able to take a catnap or catch up on emails while everyone is freshening up for the evening fun.
A versatile bag – Bring a bag with plenty of compartments and pockets. The more the better! Make sure it can fit all of your odds and ends while you are out and about for the day. Also, comfort is key because you will be lugging it with you 24/7.
What to Download
Evernote – This note-taking app can sync between your phone and your computer. You can also record audio while taking notes. Take it to the next level with Evernote Hello, their new iPhone app for managing your business contacts. If there is one app that you download for your smart phone or tablet before the big day, make Evernote your top choice!
Google+ Huddles or Facebook Chat – Create private chat rooms for coworkers and friends at the conference so you can coordinate plans a lot easier, without having to send ten separate text messages to communicate one idea.
Twitter – Tap into the conference hashtag to find the general pulse of panels, events and even meal options. You may even start a conversation with other attendees that can continue offline.
Yelp – If you are novice to the American city you are visiting, find reviews for the restaurants and lounges in your immediate area with the help of Yelp and your phone’s integrated GPS system. Since this social network is rapidly becoming the national standard for online reviews, I cannot stress what a lifesaver this app can be to a city newbie enough.
Are you a tech conference veteran? What would you add to this list?