I love attending conferences. It’s just something about the professional development, networking and exploring a new city all wrapped into one, that makes me smile! The beauty of a conference is that the bulk of your day is already planned for you. Additionally, there will be others in attendance who are solo, which makes your networking a little bit easier. As I am preparing to head to Social Media Week in Los Angeles alone this June, I want to share with you a few things I am doing to prepare and plan for my solo conference.
Review the Conference Site – The conference website is one of my favorite resources. Most conferences provide recommended lodging, transportation and a visitor’s guide to local attractions. If I’m attending alone, more often than not, I consider the recommended housing. Social Media Week recommends Air BnB due to cost. This will be my first experience with Air BnB but I’m excited to get the feel of what it’s like to be an LA native. Another important thing to consider is transportation. In some cities, renting a car may not be the ideal situation. Ensure that you confirm in advance if Uber, Lyft or public transit is available.
Make a List – As relates to free time at conferences, I don’t like to create an agenda for myself but, I do create a list of local attractions. Based on how I’m feeling, I pick something from my list each day to do. I gather attractions for my list from the conference visitor’s guide and Google. My favorite thing to do is search and visit highly rated restaurants and.
Download & Print – Print and download all of the travel documents you will need well in advance. Also download any relevant apps including the conference app, Google maps, Uber and anything else you may need. Unfortunately, in 2016 you still can’t guarantee a good Wi-Fi connection so it’s best to already have what you need ready to go.
Pack Accordingly – I’m a shopper so I always buy things when I’m traveling and then run out of space in my bag. Don’t over pack for your trip. Pack the essentials and leave room for souvenirs. One thing you definitely need – comfortable walking shoes! Trust me on this. Otherwise, one of my travel days will be dedicated to the spa because your feet and legs are aching.
Review Your Network – Whenever I travel to a city that I am unfamiliar with, I look to see if someone in my network resides there. This is easier to do with LinkedIn than any other social network in my opinion. It’s awesome to use conferences as an opportunity to catch up with old friends from college or that you met along the way. You can also ask them for recommendations on things to do.
Safety First – This one comes from my mother. Whenever I travel I have to tell her where I’m staying. It’s for my own safety of course. Let someone that you trust know where you’re staying and what conference you’re attending. It’s important for someone to know where you are, just in case. You can also share your location via iPhone if you want to be extra cautious.
Capture Your Experience – If you’re into blogging, take pictures and notes of your experience. Writing about my time at conferences is great because it causes me to spend time reflecting on what I’ve learned. Additionally, your readers will enjoy finding out what you learned. If blogging isn’t your thing, I recommend getting a journal. I encourage you to not only write about what you’ve learned, but the self-growth that develops as you push yourself out of your comfort zone by traveling solo.
What are your favorite conferences to attend or cities to visit? Tell us in the comments!