Inside: Get the absolute most out of your time and money at Haven or any business conference by packing the right things to make you more comfortable and productive! ➡
You’ve dished out the big bucks for the conference.
And for the airfare. And for the king room with the heavenly cloud-like white bedding where you’ll collapse into a heap of exhaustion every night.
But when you get there, it feels like you’re in the “I Love Lucy” episode where Lucy and Ethel are working on the candy assembly line. The candy is coming at them fast and furious, and despite trying to conceal their failure to catch every single piece of chocolate by stuffing it into their mouths, the whole assembly goes off the rails.
The same goes for a convention! Everything comes at you at a frantic pace and all you can do is grab at the few chocolates you can. You’re stuffing your cheeks like a chipmunk trying to snag as much information and as many contacts as possible.
You want to get the absolute most out of the opportunities surrounding you. Networking. Brand and vendor connections. And more networking. And let’s not forget all of the golden nuggets of wisdom that you came to soak in.
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How can I stuff in as many chocolates as humanly possible?
The Boy Scouts were right. The answer is—BE PREPARED.
This one thing will allow you to squeeze the most out of your precious time there.
Last year was my first time at Haven Conference, the largest convention for home decorating/DIY bloggers and influencers in the country. I was blown away by the wealth of knowledge that I came away with. I came home with the well-known “Haven Hangover”—dead tired but completely INSPIRED!
And I would have only banked a fraction of the experience if I hadn’t thoroughly researched what to bring. It saved me. Now that I have one Haven under my belt, I’ve made this list of essential things even better.
And it’s a simple list that applies to any kind of business conference or convention that you can use to get ready too!
The must-have essentials for a successful conference.
The items to keep you plugged in.
1. A laptop or tablet. Even if you don’t use it during the actual convention, you’ll probably need it to check up on business things, read emails, or even to stream Netflix before going to sleep.
2. Your cell phone. Duh, but it is literally your assistant. You can forget your underwear, but don’t let anything happen to this indispensable tool. You can use it for:
- Taking pictures of slides during a presentation
- Adding new contacts as you meet them
- Setting up meetings with new contacts on your calendar
- An alarm clock to make sure you wake up
- White noise to drown out the sound of people staying up too late
- Taking pictures of things you want to remember
- Scanning QR codes of vendors or people with digital business cards
- Checking and sending emails
- Taking pictures of the conference experience (a must for social media at Haven)
- Oh, and to make phone calls. 😆
Helpful hint: A phone case like this one is ideal at a conference. It lets you carry your room key and credit card, and is easy to hold with the ring loop as you’re juggling everything and taking selfies.
3. Chargers for that laptop, tablet, and phone. And make sure to bring them with you throughout the day! In one of the sessions I attended, the presenter’s laptop with the slides went dead and her charger was in her room, wasting valuable teaching time. There are plenty of accessible plugs and charging stations available in convention centers and hotels that are used for conferences and meetings.
It’s a good idea to label your chargers since there’s a chance you’ll leave one behind in the rush from one thing to the next. And don’t forget a charging block in case you have to plug into an electrical outlet. Make sure when you pull cords from an electrical outlet you get the block too (guilty more times than I can count).
4. Battery pack charger. Your smart phone will be getting more use than my credit card on Amazon, so you’ll need one of these to quickly give your phone some juice as your battery runs low. My blog bestie and I both charged our phones with this portable charger power bank during the afternoon breaks. Or if you have no case or a magnetic case, these slimline chargers are amazing—no cords needed.
5. Laptop bag. I used this laptop backpack from Amazon as my carry-on and it held not only my laptop, charger, mouse, and mouse pad, but my purse, padfolio, book for the airplane, water bottle, makeup, and snacks. It has a padded section to protect the laptop, a fun black and white stripe interior, and a ton of compartments to keep me organized. Even a charging port! And if needed, you can use it as your bag to take around the conference.
The items to meet and greet.
6. Business cards. Even though everything’s going digital, business cards are still a thing at conventions and conferences. Make sure to order them in plenty of time. Include a QR code (free here) for instant access to your website. Include a photo. I met at least 100 people, and it’s the only way I can remember what their blog is after I get home (I’m good at faces, not so much with names).
I’d read great things about Moo, an online printer and they didn’t disappoint. The thickness and quality make a professional first impression. I uploaded my own design but they have beautiful templates to choose from too. You can find them here.
Helpful hint: Keep a supply of your cards tucked into your lanyard pouch behind your name tag. You won’t have to fumble for one and interrupt your conversation.
7. A tote bag. You’ll not only need this to carry belongings like your business cards, notebook and pen, chargers, and wallet, but if you’re visiting vendor booths, you’ll usually be gifted handouts, samples, or other swag.
Helpful hint: At Haven, I saw a few bloggers that had their logo printed on a tote bag…genius brand advertising!
Many used the clear swag bag we got at registration. I threw in a tote bag I had at the last minute, but next year I’m either making a custom Southern Home and Hospitality tote, or getting something cute I know I would use a lot, like this bag:
Make a plan for success.
8. A Padfolio. We weren’t set up to easily take notes on a tablet or computer since many sessions seated us in rows of chairs. I found this Kate Spade padfolio on Amazon—it has a notepad, pen holder, and a pocket to hold papers. And bonus—it coordinated with my laptop backpack!
9. A mapped out schedule. Plan before you get to the conference which sessions you want to take. Before the madness begins, you can thoughtfully decide which sessions will benefit your business the most.
Look at the convention map and have any idea of where you need to be and when. Also, check to make sure nothing has changed since you made your plan.
Unfortunately at Haven, it’s not possible to attend all the classes even though I wish I could have! I chose what I thought I most needed to learn for where my business is right now.
Haven was a whirlwind and you have little mental downtime to figure out any time conflicts with what you want to attend.
I would have started my Haven experience as a flustered stress ball without my pre-mapped schedule. You can always change some of it if you hear something about a class and decide you want to skip it or can’t leave without it.
Helpful hint: Get to the class early to sit near the front if you plan to take pictures of the slide show screen. This also gives you a chance to meet new people as you wait for class to start!
The items you need to keep you going.
10. A reusable water bottle. I don’t know what it is, but my mouth was always dry. Maybe the nonstop talking or the dehydrating airplane trip, but I constantly wanted something to drink. Each session room and the hospitality area of the conference had water refill stations and refilling my own bottle of water was much cheaper than buying water in the gift shop.
Helpful hint: I brought along electrolyte packets and started each day off replenished and ready to take on the day.
11. Breath mints. For the same reason. You don’t want bad or coffee breath with all of the chatting you’ll be doing.
12. Snacks. Tuck a few snacks like granola bars and nuts into your tote for when you’re running low on energy, or don’t have time to finish your meal because you wanted to meet with brands, vendors, or keep networking.
What to wear to put your best brand forward.
13. Clothing that’s comfortable and represents you well. You’re not there to attend a class like a college student in pajama pants. You are a walking ad for your company.
That sounds like a lot of fashion pressure, but the best thing is it comes naturally. Since you invest all of your thoughts and creativity into your business, there’s a good chance you already dress the part. Just make sure you look like your best, spit-polished version of whatever that is.
At Haven, there are many bloggers and influencers that are DIY’ers, carpenters, woodworkers, etc. and you kind of know them when you see them because they represent what they do!
If you’re like me or are attending a conference with “office” types, you can’t go wrong with business casual most of the time.
And two words—comfortable shoes.
I packed casual and comfortable summer dresses since we were in Atlanta in July. And a couple of pairs of wedges that I knew I could wear all day. Choosing uncomfortable heels or dress shoes at a conference just because they look good is always a mistake. Especially with so many cute low or flat options.
14. Sweater, blazer, jacket, or wrap. You’ll want to make sure you pack this, even in the summer. It can be boiling hot outside, and most convention rooms will still be freezing.
Helpful hint: Pack color-coordinated pieces that you can reuse and clothing that you can roll up that won’t wrinkle. I can fit a whole lot into a little space in my suitcase by rolling and compressing clothes in these packing cubes.
If you want more details on what clothing to bring, you can find my complete packing list for ANY trip or vacation here. I include most of the gear you’d typically pack so you don’t have to think about what to bring.
If you’d like your own free printable, you can always find it in the subscribers only library!
Not signed up yet? You can do it here:
Additional insight for Haven or any blogging conference.
- Leave room in your luggage or bring an additional duffel bag to carry home the bag of swag that you’ll receive.
- Charge everything to a credit card so you can keep up with business expenses. It’s all tax deductible!
- Screenshot QR codes for your social media and website to whip out if someone wants to follow you or check your site out on the spot. (To find on Instagram, pull down the three bars in the upper right on your bio page; on Pinterest click on your profile photo)
- Relax, smile, and be ready to network. Have a short, conversational “elevator speech” prepared to let others know what you do.
- Make sure to attend the welcome reception on the first day, even if it’s out of your comfort zone. You can meet people right off at this networking event so that you’ll start the second day with some familiar faces.
- You’ll be assigned to mentor groups where you’ll meet each day to discuss what you’ve done, what classes have been good, and ask questions. Don’t skip this even if you’re tempted to spend the downtime alone.
- When nothing is going on, hang out in the common areas. We sat in the large area with tables by the bar at the Grand Hyatt early in the morning and evening and it was a great place to meet fellow bloggers. I even met several that I’ve followed for years and now they’re new friends in real life!
- Don’t be afraid to approach someone you don’t know. It’s only weird and awkward if you don’t talk to someone. They’ll be thankful you made the first move.
If you’re a Haven conference newbie (or at any influencer conference) and don’t know what to say, here are easy conversation starters:
- What’s your company/blog and what’s it about? If you’ve heard of them, say so! (I fangirled more than once)
- Where are you from?
- What classes have you been to so far?
- Have you been to Haven (or the conference) before?
- Who’s your mentor (at Haven)? Or, did you come with a friend or coworker?
If you love listicles, I’ve also put these 14 things into a handy PDF form you can use. You’ll also find it in my subscribers only library. (If you’re already a subscriber, you can find the library in the footer menu.)
So now that your suitcase is packed with everything you need to be prepared to take on your conference with confidence, all of that brain power can attempt to keep up with all of the opportunities coming at you.
The mental fatigue of social interaction and learning is real y’all.
There really is a limit to how many chocolates one person can eat. And at the end of each amazing, productive day, you’ll want nothing more than to return to your hotel room and melt into that fluffy white cloud bed.
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