This year’s PASS Summit is a week away, so I thought it was time to break out the conference packing list. Normally I would advocate to “pack light”, but this is one of those instances where a forgotten item can make the difference between an awesome experience and an epic disaster.
- Laptop / Tablet with power cord.
- Mobile data (Jet Pack / Mi-Fi / etc) – Wireless internet connections at conferences are notoriously slow, and many have questionable security. Airport wireless providers are even more renowned for their security issues. Lists of airports where your wireless connection is likely to be hacked are available online. One solution for this is to bring your own internet device that has reliable security.
- Power converters & plug adapters
- Smartphone & apps – Calling and texting are so integrated with everyday life now that I won’t comment on their necessity. Smartphone apps, however, can be enormously useful at conferences.
- A Twitter app & account is almost a requirement at most SQL events these days. Attendees and vendors both use Twitter to arrange times & locations to meet, send out general announcements, etc. The event coordinators also use Twitter to broadcast schedule changes and other impromptu information. Even after the event, many people use the #sqlfamily and #sqlhelp tags to ask questions and stay in contact.
- The PASS Events Guidebook app has up-to-date schedule information for all PASS events (Summit, SQLSaturday, etc). Through the app, you see session descriptions and room locations, along with building your own custom event schedule.
- Camera OCR apps – Apps like Office Lens are great for taking pictures of whiteboards, presentation slides, business cards, etc and embedding the text into OneNote or other Office documents.
- Maps – Applications like Google Maps are nothing new, and almost everyone has their preferred option. Regardless of what app you use, Download the map tiles of the local area around the conference. Then you won’t be reliant on the local cellular data coverage to find a local coffee shop, restaurant or other meeting place.
- E-books, music or other entertainment – Bring something to relax with. At some point, most people are going to be in transit for an extended period of time. Even at the conference itself, plan your schedule to allow 20-30min of downtime each day, or else you’ll be burnt out by the second day.
- USB cables (at least 2) – Cables for connecting & charging peripheral devices are a requirement. Bring a spare too. At some point, everyone has had a cable break or go bad. Trying to find a replacement cable at a conference is a perilous proposition.
- USB battery pack – At most conferences & training events there are never enough power outlets, and people are moving around enough that charging phones/devices becomes problematic. The easiest solution is to have a portable battery pack that can recharge your phones/devices while in a backpack or messenger bag. The one I use the most (PowerAdd Apollo 2) also has integrated LEDs and a solar cell for recharging while I’m out hiking.
- Business Cards – These days, most conferences have the ability for vendors/sponsors to scan your badge to get your contact information. So business cards aren’t as much of a requirement as they used to be. Mostly I find them convenient for giving contact info to other attendees while we’re talking at lunch or between sessions.
- Backpack / Messenger Bag
- Reusable water bottle or Travel Mug
- Earplugs – Airplanes and evening events (SQL Karaoke, vendor events with live music, etc.) have noise levels that can damage your hearing, along with giving you a pounding headache. A small pair of earplugs can moderate the ambient noise level and make for a much more enjoyable experience.
- Raincoat & jumper/pull-over – At most conferences, you are in-and-out of rooms and buildings all day long. Rooms can be hot or cold, it can be sunny or pouring rain. Bring a light-weight raincoat and dress in layers to allow yourself the most flexibility to stay comfortable.
- Comfortable walking shoes – You’re going to be walking a lot. Bring shoes that less likely to cause blisters or other foot & leg discomforts.
- Normal medicines (medications you take every day)
- Eye drops (help to recover from the overly-dry air on airplanes, and from lack of sleep during the conference)
- Pain medications (Ibuprofen / Acetomenifin / etc) – Headaches from travel, lack of sleep, and minor illnesses are very common.
- Small Bandaids for small accidental cuts
- Blister pads
- Antiseptic ointment
- Gastro pills – The food at conferences doesn’t always agree with everyone. Be prepared for an unpleasant occurrence…
- Cold / Flu Medication – Every year some attendees catch the ‘Nerd Flu’ at the PASS Summit. Flu shots can help reduce your risk of catching the flu, but they aren’t a guarantee. Having a few doses of your preferred cold/flu medication on-hand can make a difference.