Dani’s Declassified Guide to Packing and Preparing for Professional Society Conferences – ASCE, SEI, SWE, and more!

As more in-person conferences and activities are available this year to gather, collaborate, and network, I wanted to focus this month’s blog on preparing for conferences. I attended the Structural Engineering Institute’s Structures Congress earlier this month, so I want to share my experience as well as my packing list to give you a better idea of how to prepare for your next professional society conference.

Packed and ready to head to Structures Congress 2022

Before the conference:

  • Make sure your LinkedIn is updated – Especially if you are a current student about to start your internship or job search, having an updated LinkedIn is so important as many folks will connect with you there during and after the conference.
  • Write and Enable your ‘Out of Office’ Email – If you are a working professional like me and will be missing a few weekdays to attend this conference, I recommend setting yourself out of office and adding an automated response to your professional email account.
  • Download an offline map of where you will staying – Since service always varies, I like to download an offline map of where I am going because I will inevitability get lost on my way from the airport to the hotel.
  • Review the expected weather for the days you will be there – I usually pack an umbrella regardless, but knowing the general weather helps for packing what outfits to bring. A light sweater or cardigan is always a must as it tends to be chilly inside these conference rooms.
  • Prior to packing, I usually check online to see if I can find photos of what attendees wore to the conference in the past! For example, here is Structures Congress 2019, which I used as an example when preparing this year: https://www.facebook.com/SEIofASCE/photos/?ref=page_internal&tab=album

General Packing Tips

More often than not, I don’t check a bag, so I am restricted to just a carry-on and a personal item. as shown in the photo above. I like to use packing or compression cubes to help with saving space.

When I start packing, I first start by putting together outfit options. It is important to check that pieces will go together rather than just packing your favorite individual items. Especially since it has been a while since I had been wearing professional clothes, I had to try on my outfits to make sure everything still fits. I did end up having to swap out a pair of pants as the ones I originally wanted to bring were now too small for me. Another part is checking what attire is needed for the event. For the President’s Reception, business attire was requested so making sure you have business attire planned for that day is important. Lastly, try to pick pieces that will go with multiple outfits. For example, I opted to bring my black blazer over my navy blue one because I could potentially wear the black one with more outfits. If you have questions about the different levels of attire, please let me know and I can do a future blog post on this topic.

As shoes take a lot of room in your bag, I usually bring only two pairs – one heel and one flat. The last pair of shoes I bring are sneakers which I wear during my travel days since those are the bulkiest shoes and are easier to wear than pack. I would also recommend laying out your outfit that you plan to wear when traveling to. Personally, my travel outfit is usually a comfy outfit like tshirt, cardigan (that I can wear during the conference) and leggings or jeans.

Beyond clothes – there are a few other things you should consider packing. First, if you have any dietary restrictions, I would pack a few snacks like protein or breakfast bars in case you aren’t able to eat what is being served at the conference (most events do make accommodations for folks). Additionally, I would pack business cards or other ways to share your contact information with people. I personally now use a QR code that I have placed on the back of my pop socket that folks can scan.

Below is my recommended packing list if you want to copy this and edit it for yourself!

Dani’s Recommended Packing List:

  • Conference Day 1 Outfit
  • Conference Day 2 Outfit
  • Conference Day 3 Outfit (up to every day of the conference)
  • Travel home Day Outfit
  • Light sweater/cardigan
  • One pair of flats
  • One pair of heels
  • Lapel Pins for blazers
  • A few multipurpose clothing items – jeans, tank top, black skirt, etc.
  • PJs
  • Socks, underwear, and bras

Other Items to consider:

  • Hand Sanitizer – You can even bring a container of it up to 12 oz. on your carry on according to https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/whatcanibring/items/hand-sanitizers
  • Carabiner – I attached this to my purse and used it to hold my mask when I was not wearing it.
  • Bathing suit
  • Umbrella
  • Travel steamer – this is great if you have items that can easily wrinkle but shouldn’t be ironed
  • Lint roller
  • Clicker – only need if you are presenting
  • Glasses case and lens cleaner
  • Nametag (if applicable)
  • Tripod / content creator items
  • Hairbrush
  • Flow code button
  • Jewelry – to carry my jewelry and lapel pins I use a small tackle box like the one shown here: https://www.amazon.com/shop/danitheengineer/list/32T4MHE2ZQ0HF
  • Chargers and micro USB cord to charge charger
  • Makeup/toiletries
  • Melatonin – I take this the night before presentations to help get to sleep, but also can be helpful since you’ll be sleeping in a bed that you are not used to.
  • Padfolio
  • Snacks like protein and breakfast bars
  • Neck pillow for plane rides
  • Gum – especially good for take-off and landing during flights
  • Small first aid kit
  • Medicine

That is all I have for now. Please do reach out if you think I should add something to the list above. I hope this helps you in packing for your next professional conference!

Do you have any questions about attending conferences or post-conference? We would be happy to make a future blog about this topic, so please reach out if you are interested. Feel free to reach out to us at DaniTheEngineer.Blog@gmail.com with any other questions.

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