While many people can pack for a business conference without thinking, social media conferences are a different animal. After all, you are usually handling the arrangements yourself and, unless you have a sponsor, are paying your own way. Social media conferences have another aspect as well… they are meant to be social. Which can add a lot of stress to those of us who prefer the anonymity of a computer screen. So while you want to be comfortable you also want to present yourself well to your peers and to the conference sponsors.
First of all- be comfortable! That said, sweat pants and t shirts are not what I am talking about. You want to put your best self out there. Nice jeans and shirts are fine for a social media conference. The same goes for shoes; wear what is comfortable for you. A nice pair of flats or loafers are perfect. If you are comfortable in heels wear them.
Make a statement: Sometimes you find the perfect clothing for a conference, like this T-shirt I wore to Type-A-Mom last fall. It was a hit and there were many pictures taken of me because of it. Know the crowd you're socializing with and tweak your wardrobe choices accordingly.
Most often forgotten clothing: pajamas and exercise gear. If you're rooming with people who aren't your family be sure to pack your PJs. Nuff said. Toss in exercise gear- it doesn't take up much room and you'll be glad to get in a little stress relieving time on a treadmill.
Know your itinerary: Be sure to pack a good pair of walking shoes if your conference includes any kind of tour or photo walk. Are there cocktail parties? Bring a dress or jacket. If nothing else bring some accessories to add interest to your daytime look.
Tools of Social Conferences
You will undoubtedly be surrounded by more than a few laptops, netbooks, video recorders and cameras. But don't forget the “low tech” stuff, too. Things like notebooks and pens are essential, as well. I often Tweet during sessions and write my notes on paper.
You will, of course, be bringing a camera to get shots of you with all your new friends. Make sure your accessories are up to the task: tripod, batteries, bag… To see my favorite travel camera accessories click here.
Large conferences rarely have enough outlets. Bring a power strip- and make 5 new friends!
After coming home from a large conference it's easy to forget who you met. As you shuffle through the piles of business cards and fliers or review the electronic information you'll realize you have no idea who half the people are. Make a small investment in yourself- add your info to something that won't get thrown away: notepads, pens, jar lid grips, measuring spoons, cookie cutters, chip clips, chocolate…
There are three reasons to attend a social media conference.
1) Education. Obviously you want to learn something that will make you better in your niche.
2) Network. Social media is about building relationships with your peers and with companies.
3) Fun. Nowhere else will you be surrounded by so many people who “get” you. Have fun, let down your guard, smile and say hello! You never know- there may be someone there who really wants to meet you!
If you are flying consider shipping items ahead. I ship non-essentials: toiletries, swag, extra shoes… It may cost less than checking an additional bag and you'll have extra room for any swag or gifts to send home. Be sure to speak with the hotel before you do this. Remember to insure your bag and call to make sure it has arrived and is waiting for you.
Don't forget your information! Hotel confirmations, flight information, conference confirmations, directions… I advise having one set electronically (on a computer or smart phone) and one set printed. Also consider emailing the information to a friend or family member. If everything goes wrong you can still get your necessary information.