Must-Have Conference Essentials

Posted on July 15, 2015

This blog post was written by our Campus Programs Manager, Shayna, after she attended the Smart Girls Conference

I love conferences! I’ve found that since I graduated I enjoy them even more because I get the opportunity to continue learning, and more often than not, I’m learning from amazing people. That being said, there are definitely some things you’ll need to make sure you bring to get the most out of your conference experience. Below is my list of necessities! 

  • Bag: Obviously, what you put everything in is important. I love this bag because I can sling it onto my arm, or I can wear it as a cross body to keep my arms free, which I much prefer when I’m walking around. H&M is my go-to place for bags — they have a large selection of practical bags to choose from.
  • Business cards: I always keep 10 – 15 business cards in my wallet (sometimes I even throw some in the pocket of my running shorts – you never know!), and when I’m going to an event where I’ll be meeting a lot more people, I make sure to grab extras to put in my bag. Our web designer created our Intern Queen business cards, but you can easily make your own professional looking cards at or (and check out this blog post for some tips!).
  • Notebook: I’ll be the first to admit that my handwriting is horrible, but I always prefer to jot down my notes quickly during speaker sessions. It’s also easier for me to go back and edit, draw arrows to connecting ideas, etc. Additionally, it keeps me from getting distracted by apps or social media on my iPad while I’m listening.
  • iPad: If I don’t bring my laptop with me somewhere, chances are I bring my iPad. I like knowing that if I needed to, I could login to my work email or look something up on a screen bigger than my phone.
  • Water bottle: This is more than a conference necessity; it’s a life necessity. I bring a refillable water bottle everywhere with me. I drink upwards of a gallon of water a day and buying multiple water bottles at a conference (or airport, vacation, on campus, etc.) is expensive and wasteful.
  • Snacks: Another biggie: while most conferences provide breakfast and/or lunch options, it’s always good to have something for the in-between times. It’s especially important for me because of the frequency and intensity with which I work out – I eat all the time and need to keep my body fueled. Plus, if you bring your own snacks, you know you won’t binge on that bag of potato chips from the vending machine in the lobby. Bananas are a quick and easy option, and I’ve become obsessed with chocolate dusted almonds (good fats!) lately. I also never go anywhere for the day without a Quest protein bar. I’ve tried all 20ish of their flavors, multiple times, and have landed on chocolate chip cookie dough as my favorite. It’s great as a meal replacement, or as a snack during that long afternoon between lunch and dinner.
  • Book: I took the train into NYC for the Smart Girls Conference, and I always make sure to bring a book with me for the ride. I like professional development reads before networking events and conferences because it puts me in the right mindset to get ready to learn. Of course, Welcome to the Real World is kind of my bible! If you haven’t gotten your copy yet, you’re missing out – grab it here.
  • Chargers: While I always appreciate a tech-free vacation, there are few things that will get your heart pounding (not in a good way) — like your iPhone being on 15% at 1:30pm. Any time I go anywhere for the day, I bring my phone charger with me. Conference and event spaces will always have a multitude of outlets for you to plug into and recharge before the next speaker.
  • iPhone: This seems like a “duh” thing to add to the list, but bear with me – I want to tell you about what’s on my iPhone – yes, I’m talking apps. First, travel. A lot of times you may be going to a conference in a city that you’re unfamiliar with, and this could be a little nerve-wracking. If you need to use public transportation, I highly recommend checking out apps from Embark, which include public transit apps for major cities like Boston, Chicago, NYC, DC and more. If you’re traveling with a group, or meeting new people there, GroupMe is a really easy way to keep in touch with everyone regardless of what kind of smartphone they have. There are also a ton of great conference apps that organizers are using to be more sustainable and avoid wasting paper by printing out agendas. I’ve used YappTopi, and Guidebook and they’ve all been awesome, so make sure to download whatever app your conference is using.
Conferences are a great learning experiences as well as a great networking tool, so find something that you’re interested in and go for it! Stay tuned for a Smart Girls Conference recap to learn what I found most valuable from the amazing Day 1 speakers.
Are you a conference veteran? What other items would you add to this list?