The Best Stuff to Pack for Big Education Conferences

The Best Stuff to Pack for Big Education Conferences | It can be daunting to figure out what to bring with you for a big conference. Here's my tips on what stuff you should pack.

Big education conferences like ISTE, ALA, AASL and FETC can be fun, exciting and thrilling.  But they can often be overwhelming, especially for first-timers.  I’ve been going to big conferences like these for seven years, so I’ve been working on tweaking and perfecting my conference gear to make it 1) not too heavy and 2) cover all the bases of what I need.  Here’s some of my recommendations for what to pack for your next conference.

The Best Stuff to Pack for Your Next Big Conference

For the sake of this post, I’m going to focus on what to pack that you actually bring with you to the conference itself.  This isn’t a post on creating the perfect wardrobe or maximizing your toiletry kit.  It’s all about what you carry and wear while wandering around the conference itself.

Tech gear and gadgets

Education and technology conferences mean lots of gear and gadgets.  It can be tempting to bring WAY more than you really need though.  Plan out what you need and stick to that.  The most basic things are chargers, power bricks and charging cables (mini 6 inch ones are my favorites).These are my favorite items:

Presenter Bonuses
  • A dongle if you’re a Mac User
  • Keyspan presentation remote – You don’t want to be THAT presenter who has to hit spacebar every time you need to advance a slide.  Or worse, say “next slide” to someone helping you.

Non-tech gear

I’ve been getting into sketchnotes, so I like to pack supplies to take analog notes when I go to conferences.

This is also kind of old school, but I keep a simple plastic folder with pockets in my backpack too.  It’s great for storing handouts, vendor literature and other items without them getting crumpled up in my bag.

You also want to make sure that you’re prepared for networking.  Don’t forget to make address labels with your contact info for vendor giveaways.  Make sure you have some awesome business cards to give to people so that they know how to get in touch with you.  I was inspired by Gwyneth Jone’s awesome tutorial to make my own mini Moo cards and I love them.

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Snacks and Drinks

It’s easy to forget to eat and drink at conferences.  Pack a few quick snacks in your bag and bring a reusable water bottle to fill up.  If you like to get coffee or tea a lot, you might want to bring a reusable thermos too.  I usually keep these (except for the coffee mug) in my bag:

What to Wear

I know I said I wasn’t going to talk about clothes, but I’ll throw it in here anyway.  Pack a neutral color palette that’s easy to mix and match so you don’t limit yourself on outfits.  Wear things that are both comfortable and professional.  But most importantly, pick your shoes carefully.

  • Comfortable shoes that you can walk for miles in – I swear by Abeo and Dansko
  • Moleskin for the inevitable blisters that will happen

What to Pack it all in

Find a comfortable and professional backpack that works for you.  I’m a big fan of tons of pockets and organization, but everyone is different on this front.  While it cost a small fortune, I love my Tumi Calais backpack and use it almost daily.  It’s not too large, which forces me to only bring what I really need.  I’ve been eyeing the Tom Bihn Synapse 19 for a slightly more casual pack.  I also love Timbuk2 Showdown backpacks for their organization (check out their work and laptop bags).  Find one that works for you and your style.  Your shoulders will thank you.

Did I miss anything?  What are your favorite items to pack for conferences?

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Diana Rendina, MLIS, is the media specialist at Tampa Preparatory School, an independent 6-12 in Tampa, FL. Previously, she was the media specialist at Stewart Middle Magnet School for seven years, where she founded their library makerspace. She is the creator of the blog RenovatedLearning.com & is also a monthly contributor to AASL Knowledge Quest. Diana is the winner of the 2016 ISTE Outstanding Young Educator Award, the 2015 ISTE Librarians Network Secondary Award, the 2015 AASL Frances Henne Award & the 2015 SLJ Build Something Bold Award. She is an international speaker on the Maker Movement and has presented at conferences including AASL, FETC & ISTE. Diana co-authored Challenge-Based Learning in the School Library Makerspace with Colleen and Aaron Graves and is also the author Reimagining Library Spaces: Transform Your Space on Any Budget.

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