Issue #27 (Special WCMIA Edition)

Welcome to the newsletter! I hope you are enjoying these as much as I am writing them! 😄 I try to be: (1) brief (2) ad free and (3) target to organizers, speakers, and/or attendees.

Feedback: (1) ping me on Twitter (2) email me (3) i’m going to leave comments open for now for approximately a week on the website posts if you want to leave your own feedback/$0.02.

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You can find this issue on the website:

This is a special (so special it’s being released on a Thursday) issue. Since WordCamp Miami 2020 is coming up next week, I thought I would like to share 101 things an attendee should think about when it comes to a conference (particularly a WordCamp).

Without further delay, here we go!

Attendees 🙋🏽‍♀️

101 Tips For Conference Attendees

  1. If you are addicted to coffee sometimes it’s best to grab coffee from your hotel or a nearby cafe before walking into the venue (pour it into a sealed container if you want to free up your hands). If there is no coffee, then you lucked out. If there is, you have more coffee which is never a bad thing.
  2. Charge all your devices before you get into bed the night before (including hotels – although try to use your own outlets if you are nervous plugging your devices into ports you don’t know). This includes backup and travel batteries. If you are downloading any large files (movies to watch on airplanes) make sure they downloading while your devices are charging.
  3. Twitter: Make sure you are already following the conference hashtag (saved search or a new column in Tweetdeck on your laptop) and check to see if the conference has put out a Twitter list of speakers.
  4. Prepare any backup food/snacks in case your diet or metabolism may require it, just in case there’s an issue at the venue.
  5. Take note of nearby drug stores and tech locations (Apple Stores, Best Buy, electronics stores) in case you or someone is in dire need of an adapter, dongle, or battery. Drug stores also might have medication (like aspirin).
  6. Get plenty of sleep. That’s it.
  7. Look at the schedule in advance (and double check it a few days before to make sure there weren’t last minute changes). Prepare a list of preferred speakers you would like to see, and even a backup list.
  8. Twitter: Set up automatic “hello I’m here” tweets so you don’t have to do those while walking into or around the venue. Notify followers before conference that you might be tweeting more (followers can mute you or the hashtag).
  9. Plan on getting to registration on time and/or taking advantage of early registration. Cuts down on stress, even for seasoned conference attendees.
  10. If you plan on taking photos of slides or speakers, try to sit in the front rows to minimize you disturbing others or calling attention to yourself. Also don’t feel a need to take a picture of every slide since VERY often speakers share slides after their talks (you can also ping organizers and conference social channels if that doesn’t happen).
  11. If you can: bring an extra surge protector and/or USB hub. If power outlets are few you might make a few friends if you share it.
  12. Bathrooms: locate beforehand or ask when you register – usually well marked but you don’t want to search if you… uh… need to go quickly.
  13. After parties: To the degree you are comfortable, be aware of where organizers and volunteers are in case you want to report or point them in the direction of a possible Code of Conduct violation.
  14. Be prepared for crappy WiFi, no matter how much the organizers promise good WiFi. If you are also speaker, make sure you can do your presentation without it and have a backup copy on a USB drive.
  15. Learn how to ask questions during Q&As.
  16. Don’t leave personal belongings unattended unless it’s in a secure area (most of the time the only secure areas organizers can provide are lockable rooms that volunteers have access to).
  17. Alarms: Multiple alarms on your phone if you are a heavy sleeper. Some Hotels still do wake up calls. Also set alarms on your phone or watch if you don’t want to miss a special talk happening at a certain time. Use calendars and similar apps too.
  18. Often best times to visit sponsors (for networking and/or swag, if that’s your thing you don’t want to admit) is usually as early as possible on the first day or when they are just beginning to close down on the final day (many sponsors don’t want to bring swag back home with them, and most are relaxed enough to chat).
  19. Establish a system for taking notes, and have a non-high tech backup plan in case you run out of battery, WiFi, etc.
  20. If you are being social in a group, form a Pac-Man circle so others can possibly join the conversation. Even better: keep an eye out for people you can invite into your conversation if possible. Not everyone attending has a friend, partner, or person they know to hang out with.
  21. Insert the “bring your business cards” suggestion here. They still have the potential to be useful although most cards find the bottom of my bag pretty quick. Just don’t hand them out excessively.
  22. Need a bag to carry items for some reason? There’s usually one sponsor at an event that is giving away bags of some sort. Sponsors are also nice for emergency t-shirts.
  23. If possible, for rooms that will be filled to capacity, try to sit in the center of the row so that others coming in after you don’t have to walk over others (including you). Also try to reserve accessible seats for elderly or those in need. Don’t take excessive seating or spacing.
  24. Don’t bring nuts or nut products into the venue even if you aren’t allegoric because it’s likely someone attending might have an allergy. Be mindful of related suggestions and announcements the organizers might make on the website or opening remarks.
  25. Clean up after yourself before you leave your row after attending a talk. Pick up paper, coffee cups, etc. In general if you see something you can pick up and throw away properly, do it. Report big messes to volunteers or organizers.
  26. Be a good social media person.
  27. Avoid heavy perfumes and colognes – many are sensitive to odors. But have something standing by in case you need help in the smell department (especially after a long day of conferencing).
  28. Bring a durable bottle or thermos (if you forgot, sponsors at times have something like this as swag). Many modern venues have water fountains with water filters.
  29. Wear comfortable clothing and shoes. Check the weather of the conference venue and city.
  30. Don’t forget about hallways sessions and other networking opportunities that might be going on during the conference. Remember that especially at most WordCamps most of the talks are recorded – important to remember if you need to choose where you should be at a certain time.
  31. Attend opening remarks at a WordCamp if you can, even if you think you know everything. Usually a reminder or two there worthy of your attention.
  32. Taking photos of name badges (that usually have twitter handles and company information in addition to names) is sometimes a better and faster way to get someones information (vs writing it down). Some badges have QR codes that phones can use to add people straight into your contacts, if you want.
  33. Don’t be shy or self-conscious, especially at WordCamps. Respect people’s time and privacy, but don’t be afraid to approach anyone. Maybe prepare a few questions before the conference to ask if you thinking about talking to certain people (like speakers).
  34. WordCamps usually have Happiness Bars to answer basic questions about your website – these might be busy are various times you don’t wait until late in the conference if you truly need the support.
  35. Keep track of your attendee badge – you usually need it for after parties in addition to the venue itself. I do a check before I leave the hotel and any after parties or networking events. Also try not to wear the badge away from conference events (like traveling in the city) – you may not want to advertise you are from out of town (or your name at least).
  36. All conferences have schedules accessible on mobile, but still some are hard to read (and may require internet access). Nothing wrong storing a screen grab or a PDF on your phone if that’s easier (I’ve seen a few print it out if the conference doesn’t provide, just watch the waste). Conference apps are ok, but usually most of the time when talking around you just need the basics.
  37. Make sure your watches and devices have the correct time if you are in a new timezone. Most electronic devices automatically adjust, but bugs happen and many still use low-tech watches.
  38. WordCamps usually have a page on their site called “Attendees” for you to determine (1) who you know is coming and (2) possibly see who you want meet. Note not everyone is listed on this page due to privacy and other reasons.
  39. You don’t have to pack the kitchen sink. Travel light if you can. Often many people find the less they carry, the less stress and physical aches they experience. The very basics in my opinion are (1) something to take notes (2) phone or tablet (3) water bottle (4) snacks (5) pen (6) money/cash/proper ID (7) Hand sanitizer/lotion
  40. Do some research for the city you are in and see if there are any groups doing anything after hours. Monitor social or ask organizers for feedback and opinions.
  41. If you are sensitive to noise and crowds, bring AirPods or noise cancelling headphones. Don’t worry about what other people think if you have to pull them out in a public place.
  42. I stole this from Joe Casabona: Have a main and a secondary goal for attending the conference, especially if you are there for business or self-improvement.
  43. Start conversations weeks or months before the event via social media if possible. Work on establishing conversations and not trying to sell yourself, your business, etc.
  44. Mute your electronic devices before you enter the venue. Not only phones but laptops, tablet, watches, etc.
  45. Extra stickers and swag are good to bring home to your local meetup.
  46. Take photos of signs posting schedules if that works better for you then looking at the conference schedule online. Share these on Twitter perhaps for the benefit of others.
  47. Unless there’s a reason not to, share WiFi information on social as many often ask what network or password they should be using. If some see this on their phone first, you’ve answered a question they didn’t need to ask.
  48. Many WordCamps have “looking for work” and “looking to hire” boards and it’s nice to take photos of those to share with friends, your meetup group, or post on social media.
  49. Twitter: Don’t use a million hashtags. Use the main conference hashtag and anything else you must.
  50. If a networking event is happening away from the venue, find a “travel buddy” (offering to pay for an Uber ride is a sure fire way to get one) for safety reasons. If forced to travel alone, let someone you trust know where are going. Ask organizers or volunteers if you can ride with someone or you can give someone a ride.
  51. If you have special (especially life threatening) needs related to diet, health or accessiblity or other let the organizers know well in advance if possible. Pinging them the day before a conference likely won’t result in much progress.
  52. If you are tweeting about a speaker, a good photo of them usually makes the tweet nice. But instead of taking a single photo and typing and submitting… and repeating the process again… I take multiple shots of the speaker in slightly different poses (arm up, face turned, smiling, etc.) and store those up. Later I can just focus on writing or sharing and attach a stored up photo. Most of the time the exact time of the photo doesn’t make any difference. Animated GIFs of speakers are fun.
  53. If you are looking for a reduced price (or even free) ticket for a conference, consider volunteering or even help on the organization level. There is a conversation here on Twitter that sparked this thought and it might be worth your time to take a look and see what might apply in your situation.
  54. Some people have certain personalities that make them chatty – just be aware in social situations (or even asking a speaker a question) be mindful of others. Just be aware that not everything is about you, and you should be fine.
  55. Depending on your physical condition, make sure to get up and stretch on a regular basis. Most people think they walk more steps at conferences then they do “back home” and that’s usually NOT the case. I can personally attest to this.
  56. Make sure your laptop is setup to perform a client emergency (especially if you are a developer) in case you run into trouble. This might require you doing some setup on your laptop days prior to leaving for a conference.
  57. I shared my top ten dongles and electronics to take to conferences. Although many of these are useful to speaker and organizers, I think there’s helpful reminders here for attendees as well.
  58. Listening to relevant podcasts about the topics covered at the conference or podcasts featuring the speakers might be good listening material during you traveling to the conference.
  59. When you travel out of state via air travel – keep all your electronics and dongles in clear zip lock bags because it’s easier for Airport security to scan them. Remove the zip lock bags out of your travel bags – even if they aren’t technically “electronic devices larger than a phone”. The security teams at most airports I’ve been at tell me to do this and sometimes have to put my “cable boxes” through the scanners after they take them out of my travel bag.
  60. Make sure to properly give speakers feedback on their talks, especially if you enjoyed them. Speakers usually like feedback during or after the conference via a website (like or via social. Organizers tend to ask for feedback on speakers as well in surveys sent a few weeks after the conference is over. Speakers (paid or not) put a lot of time into their talks and they have constructive feedback.
  61. If you are attending a specific type of conference, wearing a shirt that some might associate you with in public (especially at airports) isn’t a bad idea. Going to a WordCamp? Wear a shirt with a WordPress logo when you travel and you might meet people at cafes, airports, etc. that you wouldn’t even know were there otherwise. Put a tech sticker on your luggage.
  62. REALLY want to see a talk? Get to the room early. Plan to attend perhaps the talk PRIOR to the talk you want to see. You would be amazed how many people rush around at the last minute.
  63. If you have any other serious medical condition, it might be good to ping conference organizers ahead of time on where someone might go if medical services (that don’t require high enough urgency hopefully to immediately require emergency services) are located ahead of time. Many venues might not have such a place.
  64. Read conference emails at least twice. Inboxes may be overloaded, but since WordCamps are volunteer-powered, each email generally has important information to know. Don’t wait until you are at the venue to ask questions.
  65. Add the WordCamp’s address to your safe senders list. Think you’re missing something? Check your spam folder.
  66. Thank Sponsors. Regardless of your stand on swag, if you want to be helpful to a conference sincerely thank sponsors for being involved. If there was a particular aspect of the conference that you enjoyed (the food, live captioning, even the venue itself) let the sponsor know that in part thanks to them things like that were possible for you to enjoy.
  67. Thank Parents. Be supportive. If you can, show thanks to parents and appreciation to the younger ones you do happen to bump into (hopefully not literally but it happens). Making parents, children, and families in general feel welcome is as important as making ANYONE ELSE at a conference feel welcome.
  68. Force yourself to meet new people. Maybe go to a different talk or break out session, eat lunch with someone new or find a big group you both can sit down with (don’t feel pressured to be a part of the conversation). Try to also meet DIVERSE group of people too, not just people that look or think like you.
  69. If you drove to the event, make sure you know the parking situation. Conferences usually take care of parking, but not always. Don’t assume anything on cost (or even when parking garages open/close).
  70. If alcohol is being served at an after party, be responsible.
  71. If there’s karaoke happening at an after party, be responsible. A certain person who shall go unnamed (cough) has been banned from karaoke bars in seven states because of poor vocal skills.
  72. If you want to pitch an idea or product to another attendee, try to schedule an appointment so you have the other person’s undivided attention.
  73. Conference talks and workshops are largely pointless in of themselves unless you apply what you learned after the conference is over. Set goals and priorities after the conference (big or small) to maximize the time you spent at the conference (for some, this means moving forward with a business plan, building a website, or simply learning a new skill). Make a post-conference plan!
  74. Know when to put away the smart phone – sometimes this is at a workshop or out on a dinner. You don’t have to disconnect completely, but don’t forget to enjoy real human interaction.
  75. If you are taking up the only power outlet and your battery is already close to 100%, don’t hog it.
  76. Always read the Code of Conduct and related signs (and on the website). They aren’t all the same and they are excellent reminders.
  77. Sometimes a program that sounded great won’t be what you expected. It’s ok to walk out. If you have doubts, sit in the back or on the aisle to easily exit the room.
  78. Try introducing yourself to the person seated next to you (before a talk or at lunch) unless that person is madly typing on their laptop keyboard or undergoing a visible meltdown. A brief “hello” just for human interaction makes for a great environment.
  79. Write a blog post after the conference noting positive experiences (organizers love that) and speakers that impacted you (speakers love that). You might be surprised if you attend future events and someone knows you from a blog post that mentioned them or something they were involved in.
  80. If you are in a dark room on your laptop consider lowering the brightness to attract less attention, especially if you are just taking notes or live tweeting (plus it helps your battery life if you aren’t plugged in).
  81. If the conference has a Slack or other online channel, consider joining it for two reasons: you are communicating with the community, and it might be another way to get important live announcements. You can unjoin after the conference.
  82. Set your laptops and phones into low-power conference mode. Likely you won’t need bluetooth or many apps open. Assume you won’t have access to power for the majority of the day.
  83. Put labels or unique stickers on all your dongles and equipment, especially if you let other speakers or volunteers “borrow” them. Helps later when you can point to something at a distance and say “yep that’s mine”.
  84. If you have a Mac laptop, setup a “if you found this please return” message on your lock screen.
  85. Avoid overeating at lunch – most venues like to present a lot of carbs and meat. Avoid the “food coma”. I’m not your mother or father, but stick with coffee or water over any drinks with sugar would be my suggestion.
  86. Think about your mobile connectivity, especially if you are in another country. Some countries have expensive data roaming or this may not be covered by your mobile plan.
  87. Establish a “home base” where you can return to to get away from everything. Some larger conferences have “quiet areas” but sometimes this can also be your car, a coach, a corner of unused space or room. Wherever it is, find a place to recharge your social (or literal) batteries and try to scout this out BEFORE you have a need to find a place.
  88. Nothing beats a quality laptop bag. Don’t buy something last minute. Treat this bag like you would buy a mattress because if you carry a laptop around all day, you’ll appreciate something comfortable and roomy even if you have spend a little more money for it.
  89. Be mindful if it’s a family friendly event. I won’t say not wear that shirt that has a million swear words and naked people on them, but maybe give it a second thought. Just say’n.
  90. This sadly is for those who can afford it – but if you CAN stay at the conference hotel, it’s usually a better social experience (and usually very close to the venue). You’ll bump into a lot of attendees plus it’s easy to grab something from your hotel room or take a quick nap.
  91. If you are taking notes via Twitter, share critical links shared by speakers with the conference hashtag and mentioning the speaker. These URLS outside the slides are appreciated by those not even physically attending the conference (and wouldn’t know to dig into speaker slides).
  92. Consider getting to an event a day early for pre-event socials.
  93. If you’re someone who usually exercises don’t neglect that while attending a conference. Most hotels have some sort of gym (that few often use). For some even a small workout makes you feel more refreshed and prepared to get what you need out of the conference.
  94. Twitter: If you are native to the city the conference is in, offer truly helpful travel and attraction tips a few weeks before the conference. Don’t flood the hashtag – if you have a lot to say link to a blast post instead.
  95. Email: Set your out of office reply BEFORE you leave the office.
  96. Remembering names is hard. Here’s something to read to hopefully prepare you for that.
  97. Strategically walk the sponsor area and plan the times you can return. Hit the obvious ones you want to talk to first but don’t let the smaller sponsors (likely in a less traffic area of the venue) miss your attention. If the sponsor area is quite large you need time to form a plan, walk the sponsor area with your headphones on and keep your distance. You want some thinking time, but not to be rude.
  98. Twitter: If you want people to identify and find you, change your avatar (at least for the duration of the conference) to a recent photo of your face/head.
  99. Attending a local meetup that is similar (in terms of content) to the conference might get you some “practice” or get you more in the mindset for the conference. WordPress meetups are excellent ways to do this. Some conferences even have meetups right before their events.
  100. Some WordCamps have contributor day – even if you aren’t a coder or think you can’t participate. Just come anyway. Besides not needing to know a line of code or how contributing works to help… you’ll usually meet people you didn’t run into at the larger event.
  101. Have fun. Life is short. Enjoy the conference as much as you can. And also don’t waste your time reading lists with 101 things on them.

Misc. Stuff 🤷‍♂️

These tips were written and/or gathered by David Bisset, someone who’s been helping organizing conferences (such as WordCamp Miami, but others too) and meetups for over a decade. He’s still learning so share any of your tips and it might be included in a future newsletter.

One Comment

Jenna Dugan February 21, 2020

Great advice thanks!

Comments closed