Conference Packing List: Carry On is the New Business Casual

Shawn Forno

I like conferences. A lot.

Show me an event center packed with enthusiastic like-minded people wearing name tags and I’m there.

For novice conference attendees packing for a conference—in a carry on—presents a challenge. How do you look professional in such a small amount of space? It’s easier than you think.

Below I’ve created the ultimate conference packing template—full of must-haves and things you should leave at home. Follow it and you’ll be a networking machine and an industry standout in no time.

Clothes: Dress to Impress

Unless you’re actually going to a ComicCon, it’s best to leave the X-Men t-shirt at home. Business casual—shirt, no tie / blouse, skirt—is best, with one normal outfit for the flights both ways.

Ties, especially that bolo tie. Even Elon doesn’t wear a tie! Ties are way too formal. They make you look stiff and unapproachable, not professional. It’s the weekend; dress for the room. Exception: Sweet bow ties.

Toiletries: Don’t Smell Like “That Guy”

Your hygiene and appearance matter, but at conferences, it’s twice as important to make a great first impression. Steal a few pages from the Dapper Dude packing list to bring your corporate A-game, because nothing shuts down a meet and greet faster than B.O. or spinach in your teeth:

Leave At Home:

Shampoo and Soap. They’re both at your hotel, and the little bottles make you feel like a giant. So that’s fun.

Technology: Less is More

Unless you’re at a Luddite convention, you’ll bring some everyday tech. The key here is to not go overboard. A laptop is great if you have to actually work during the conference. If not, consider leaving it at home for the weekend and bring a tablet or even just your smartphone and a notepad. Less is always more when you have to carry it around all day.

Leave at Home:

Bulky laptop. It sends the wrong impression, and honestly, you’re not gonna use it. Let those emails pile up until Monday.

Conference-y Stuff: Old-School is Still King

Smartphones have changed the way people network, but conferences by their very nature demand that you go a little old school. Even the best event centers don’t always have available outlets to charge your devices, the wi-fi can get patchy, and often you only have a matter of seconds to get a someone’s contact info or pitch your next big idea—a screen that won’t load is an instant deal breaker. Make sure you pack enough analog gear to get you through:

packing for a conference

Leave at Home:

That bad attitude. Be positive and friendly and you’ll build relationships that will take your career to the next level.

TL;DR

Conferences are supposed to be fun—even the boring ones can be a blast if you pack the right stuff.

Let me know what you wear to conferences, and if you did attend ComicCon this year, by all means tweet me a pic of what you cosplayed as. Especially if it’s Deadpool.