to a conference

This weekend I was at SxSW Eco conference, and it brought to mind the opportunities to BYOR (Bring your own Reusable) when attending conferences, off-site meetings, symposiums, summits or any other gathering where you are spending hours away from home and office, hopefully not being too overrun with powerpoint presentations.

Beyond my toothbrush and other travel needs, the things I always try to remember to bring are usually technological in nature:  laptop, power adapter, iPad, phone, flash drives and maybe even a power strip to access and share electricity.  These, of course, are all tools-of-the-trade in our information economy, but capturing and sharing information are not the only things that take place at a conference.  Here are some items to add to your packing list:

  • Water bottle / Tumbler –  You will need to take care of your most basic needs:  getting caffeinated and staying hydrated.  Since you probably won’t want to pack both a bottle and a tumbler, the tumbler is a more practical choice, or you can take a double-walled water bottle, like this nice one from Klean Kanteen.  You can even switch tops from a typical cover to a ‘sipping’ top for hot liquids.
  • Utensils  / Spork – Wherever you are going to spend a long period of time, you are going to have to eat.   Some classy conferences may have real silverware, but my experience is that you get the plastic-wrapped polystyrene fork, knife and napkin combinations.  While away, you eat on the run a lot, so  I like to carry a set of To-Go Ware’s bamboo utensils.  They are lightweight and versatile.  Or if you are a camping enthusiast, you might have a spork around that you can easily take along.
  • Cloth Napkin / Bandana – As long as we are talking about eating, avoid using paper napkins by taking along one or two bandanas for the trip.  They don’t add extra bulk, and you simply throw them in the laundry when you get home.

Those are the basics, and if you are in the habit of BYOR, they are probably in your bag already.  For extra credit consider:

  • Tiffin / Food Container – At large conferences, when lunch is provided, the typical format is the long line through the buffet with a paper or styrofoam plate.  On the other end, like at a tech meet-up, pizza is usually the food of choice.  Avoid that throw-away plate by bringing your own.  You can clean it up with the bandana, and rinse when you get back home or to the hotel.
  • Lanyard and Badge Holder – Some folks like to keep these as souvenirs from a hot conference, like the tickets from a rock concert, but most end up in the garbage.  Next time, save it, and bring it to your next event.  You’ll stand out from the crowd, and get multiple uses out of something perfectly good that is typically thrown away after a day or two.
  • Pen and Notebook – This may seem like a no-brainer, and you probably always carry something to write with.  But consider how many times you were at a fancy meeting that supplied you with a pen and notepad (often branded with the hotel where you are meeting.)  This tip is not as much about remembering to bring your reusable as remembering to use it.  Don’t take a freebie that you don’t need. And may we suggest a refillable pen in place of a plastic disposable? Consider it.

Another road trip tip here.  Safe travels.


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