Going to an industry conference can be overwhelming. There’s hundreds if not thousands of people congregated in a small amount of space for a short period of time, all trying to learn and grow in their fields.
Traveling to one can be expensive to do, especially if you a new or young professional. But the investment can pay off tremendously in ways not possible through regular networking in your local area.
Originally I wrote this in mind as a guide for other students journalists planning on going to next year’s Canadian University Press National Conference in Montreal, Canada or similar conferences by organizations like Online News Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the News Photographers Association of Canada or the Society for News Design.
But I feel that much of it also applies to gatherings in disciplines like graphic design, fine arts, film, advertising and do-it-yourself events like Maker Faire.
With that in mind – here’s the list of 10 things you absolutely need at journalism conferences:
- Great business cards
Thicker card stock and good design will help cement any positive first impressions. They also greatly increase the likelihood key contacts will remember you and stay in contact long after the conference is over. Print plenty, always have them on hand and remember to ask ones in exchange.
- Your portfolio
It makes sense for photographers to have great large size prints on hand, print journalists to have multiple copies of clippings (including original, unedited drafts) and broadcast journalists to have podcasts, radio broadcasts and television clips on media formats easily loadable on any computer. PDFs, DVDs and USB keys are your friends.
- Original story ideas and pitches currently in consideration, research or production
The conference is a great place to get advice from peers and mentors in your field. Take full advantage of this opportunity. Doing so will allow you to refine your work before submitting to an editor, who will very likely notice and appreciate your project’s extra polish.
- Full copies of your publication or program
It’s fun to show off the team you’re a part of, see what everyone else is participating in as well as observe trends and advances in your field.
- Your full arsenal
This can be your notebook, laptop, voice recorder, video camera, mikes, full DSLR kit, batteries, smartphones, chargers or other tools. Always have them on hand and ready to use. That way if a story occurs in or outside of the conference, you have the resources you need at your disposal to capture it right away.These also allow you to maintain productivity away from your desk or home environment, as well as take advantage of any interactive workshops being offered.
- Business casual wardrobe
Going to a conference is should be considered a step in advancing your career – treat it as such. I guarantee others will notice. Also, it makes you prepared for any sudden work opportunities that may arise.
- An updated website and CV
If you’re handing out business cards with your website address on them it doesn’t make sense to have outdated information or third-choice clippings.
It helps you bond with peers and it’s cheaper than drinking at the hotel bar or pub.
- A good alarm clock
Necessary for waking up on time for breakfast, efficient naps and making your flight home on time.
- A smartphone
If the internet is down in the venue this allows you to still respond to messages, live-blog and stay productive.
They say luck is a combination of timing and preparation. Going to a conference prepared with these tools will pay off and allow you to seize opportunities you never expected to arise.