Top tips to getting it right at a conference – before you arrive

How can you avoid embarrassing yourself at a conference, losing clients and worse ruining your reputation? Attending a business conference is expensive both in the time away from other activities and the cost of registration, travel, accommodation and incidentals. Here is an important checklist that will help you maximise your time away.

Keeping your spouse happy

If you ever want to regularly attend business conferences, you need to understand the impact that it will have on your partner and your family. If they are joining you at the conference, carefully look at the social events, city location and dress code to make sure that your family will fit in and have an age-appropriate enjoyable time. Many conferences now completely forget that you are bringing family members. If this is the situation then more careful planning is needed.

Who will be paying your costs?

The cost of attending most conferences will range from thousands to tens of thousands of dollars depending on the travel and entertainment that needs to occur. If you are expecting clients to pay part or all of your expenses then you will need to start planning at least three months in advance with a carefully thought through strategy to establish why it is to the client’s benefit to pay for your time at the business conference. Setting out a business plan, objectives and suggested outcomes are essential.

Advanced notice to business colleagues and meetings

Do not leave it to chance: if there is a business colleague or client that you expect to meet at a conference, double check with them well in advance and start to block out parts of the day for meetings. Make sure to recheck those commitments in the week prior to the conference as it is quite usual that the people who you contacted have either forgotten or lost the time of the meeting. Sending a calendar invitation to the other person is important particularly if you are coming from different time zones.

Just in case either your or the other person’s calendar fails to make the necessary time zone change, include in the calendar invitation the exact time and date as you should not assume that the other person’s calendar will get it right. Send a text reminder the night before your meeting during the conference as regularly you will find that the other person has made promises and overlooked that they are meeting you. The text reminder will remedy this.

What will you forget to take?

Always assume that you are likely to forget something important when going to a conference. Ask someone else to check through your travel possessions the see whether you have left out something vital. If you have a tight schedule, there will not be enough time to purchase a replacement or arrange for new medication or equipment.

Business cards

Please don’t be the person attending a conference with no business cards. As a general rule, take double what you would expect and if you do get to the point where you will run out of business cards adopt a different strategy.

As most people have a smart phone with a camera, invite the person that you are talking to to take a photograph of your business card or come up with another solution so that you leave the conference with at least one business card in your possession. Sure enough as you leave the conference or while you fly home, you will have a conversation with someone and still need to show them your business information.

What can you lose along the way?

There are quite a lot of things that you could lose. Those that are easily replaced are not important but there are some items that if lost will ruin your business conference and potentially ruin your future business activities.

Before you leave, complete all necessary backups of your computer and smart phone. Ideally update all of your passwords to that equipment and stick a return here sticker on each of them just in case an honest person or taxi driver finds them. The return address should be both the hotel of the business conference and your business address depending on how quickly you lose the items!

Important items and actions

This is not a complete list or in order of priority but are certainly items which make the attendance at a conference far easier:

  • a multi-adapter power cord – there are now so many items of equipment that need to be recharged overnight that arriving with only a double adapter can be a real problem
  • a cloth bag large enough to include all of the electrical leads for all of your equipment with a pull string tie so that the items do not fall out. Don’t just throw in all of the electrical leads into your carry-on suitcase – this is the best way to lose at least one.
  • count the number of electrical leads that you are taking with you
  • many recharger systems now can be pulled apart. This is a good idea to both so that they fit more neatly into a small area but more importantly that it makes it far more difficult for the equipment to snap when squashed in a bag
  • test whether your pen is going to leak when flying in reduced air cabin pressure. Nothing is worse than having a large in stain across your best clothing or presentation documents
  • remember how many items you collected from the last conference and make sure that you have baggage and weight allowance capacity to bring home the same amount from the conference. Allowing for 22 lbs or 10 kg is a good start.
  • learn how to fold your clothes so that they can be taken out of the suitcase without needing to be ironed – yes it is possible
  • assume one of your bags will be lost or stolen, which means packing some items in more than one suitcase or carry-on baggage , vital for medications and business cards

Airport security

We have all been through various airport security where it is inevitable that people feel rushed. This is the perfect spot for items to be lost in advance of the conference. Some of the simple ways to avoid this risk are:

  • have your laptop and iPad easily accessible so that they can be taken out
  • put all of the items in your pockets into your jacket or handbag in advance of standing in the security line. Carefully put your jacket on to a security tray making sure that all of the pockets are placed so that your important items don’t fall out when you lift it up again on the other side of the security barrier
  • wear an outrageous pair of socks just in case you have to take you shoes off or at very least make sure that there are no holes in them
  • don’t rush – if the person behind you is in a hurry, they should have arrived at the airport earlier or asked to go ahead of you


Attending a business conference needs careful planning which can lead to a successful expansion of your knowledge and business. There is nothing more embarrassing than finishing your first conference conversation with ‘I’m terribly sorry I didn’t bring any business cards’ or worse still meeting an important client only to learn that you forgot to attend the business breakfast that you arranged several weeks before the conference. It is critical that you avoid each of these single points of failure so that you can make the very best of your business activities. With proper preparation you will be able to arrive and efficiently complete your tasks at the conference to the best of your ability.

Business conferences are meant to be educational, relaxing and financially rewarding so make the best of them.

Posted in: General Business Topics

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