Editor’s note: here’s a helpful contribution from veteran FinCon speaker, Donna Freedman.
I’ve been to all four FinCons and thus can speak to some of the things that make the experience more comfortable and convenient.
For example, during the inaugural conference Philip Taylor negotiated a flat rate taxi ride from the airport to the Schaumburg hotel – but the taxi company didn’t accept credit cards. One other attendee I met was going to have to find an ATM because she hadn’t brought enough cash to cover the ride both ways.
Several other writers and I offered to spot her some bucks. Luckily for me she was a very honest blogger, because I completely forgot to whom I’d lent money. She mailed me the dough as soon as she got home.
Paying an out-of-network fee wouldn’t have been the end of the world. (In fact, she might have gotten a blog post out of it.) The stakes might be higher, though. Running out of business cards comes to mind – a professional conference is no place to do that.
When you’re packing for #FinCon15, keep some or all of the following tips in mind. None of them take up much room. All of them can make a difference. Maybe a big difference.
1. Stimulants. Legal ones, mind you. The days are very long and exciting but at some point some of us have sinking spells. Maybe you’ll pack ginseng or guarana, or an old-school product like No-Doz. Maybe you’ll find the closest store and stock up on Red Bull or Mountain Dew. Get whatever it takes to prop you up during said spells. (Frugal alternative: Conference coffee and/or the soft drinks put out with lunch and snacks.)
2. Extra business cards. Bring twice as many as you think you’ll need, because you can always cart them back home. Obviously you’ll be handing them out to all the bloggers and/or potential clients you meet. But you’ll also want to enter the vendor contests, which become more numerous each year.
3. Throat lozenges. You will talk so long and so intently with all your new buddies that even if you don’t lose your voice you’re likely to compromise it. This is especially true of the receptions, because two free beers make people loud and you may have to shout to be heard.
4. Cash. You can’t be sure that every place you visit accepts debit or credit. Besides, you might want to tip those hotel maids.
5. Comfortable shoes. The days are long and you’ll be speeding from program to panel to meet ’n’ greet. You’re going to want your comfy footwear. Save the glam brogans for the evening parties (and kick them off under the table to give your poor dogs a break).
6. First aid supplies. Put some or all of the following in your suitcase: Band-Aids for the blisters from those glam brogans (you should have listened to Tip No. 5); cold meds; allergy meds, if applicable (who knows what’ll still be blooming in the Carolinas?); Zantac or some other antacid (in case the Charlotte BBQ grub doesn’t agree); Immodium (ditto); analgesics (I prefer Aleve because it both relieves pain and acts on inflammation). You don’t need to bring entire packages – just a few of each item should suffice.
7. Power strip. Your laptop, tablet or smartphone might run out of juice in mid-Tweet. Oh noes! Check under the table for an outlet and plug in before the session starts. Look for a strip with a long-ish cord so you can set it on the table and graciously invite seatmates to power up, too. This takes up very little room in your suitcase and you get to be a superhero for those on their last bars.
8. Ziploc bag. Even if you’re not a frugality blogger! Fill it with ice and use it anywhere that’s painful – tight neck, tender feet or your throbbin’ noggin – in between the sessions and the nighttime events. Since the evenings tend to be long and sometimes involve dancing, your overtaxed body will thank you for a little pregame cryotherapy.
9. Snacks. Oh, FinCon feeds us just fine for breakfast, some lunches and in-between treats. But you’ll be keeping long hours and might want a bite before bed. Either bring your favorite jerky/dried fruit/chocolate/whatever along with you, or do what I do: Look for a Walgreens or CVS near the hotel ahead of time and make a quick run for cereal, pretzel sticks, gummy bears or anything else you want to keep in the room.
10. Airborne. Or Emergen-C. Or your herbal supplement of choice. Long days and late nights plus exposure to cooties from all over the country can add up to what a friend of mine calls “con crud.” Dose yourself while at the conference and just before you get on the plane/start the long drive home. You’re welcome.