You’ve registered for a writing conference. You’ve booked your flight. You’ve secured your hotel room. You’ve signed up for awesome extras like pitches and bootcamps. Now the conference is a week away and you’re stuck twiddling your thumbs like, “Now what?”
Or worse, it’s 11pm the night before the conference starts and you realize you’ve got 4 hours before your shuttle arrives to take you to the airport and you’ve yet to prep or pack, let alone sleep.
I’ve been there 🙋 and it’s not any fun at all. In fact, it’s uber stressful.
But really, with a little thought and preparation, getting ready for a conference doesn’t have to be stressful at all. (Okay, so if your shuttle is coming in 4 hours and it’s the middle of the night, stress is probably going to be involved.) But for those of you reading this at least a couple days before your conference, I’ve got you covered.
Step 1: Look over the conference schedule.
Go to the conference website and pull up that handy .pdf of the full conference schedule (more than likely the conference has one!). Better yet, print it out or make it easily accessible on your phone. You’ll want to reference this a lot (and if you’re anything like me, you’ll be highlighting it and possibly even jotting down notes).
Look at check-in times and make a mental note (or add it to your calendar) of when you’ll want to arrive. Better yet, schedule your alarms for each morning now so you won’t forget later on. Look at every block of time, making notes for anything you might need at each event. Is there a workshop class where you’ll need to bring copies of your WIP? Is there a meet-and-greet type of event with a fancier dress code? Will you need to bring a copy of your query for a query class? This shouldn’t take long. Just a quick glance at the schedule should suffice.
Step 2: Make a packing list.
Now, using the list you just made, add everything else you’ll need for the event. Clothes, toiletries, electronics, pens and notebooks, everything. (I’ll share my packing list below.)
Step 3: Make an action list.
Now, looking at your packing list, does anything require an action? This would include things like:
- Wash blue blouse
- Buy travel size hairspray
- Fix up query for query class
- Print 5 copies of chapter one of WIP for workshop
Is there anything else you need to accomplish before the conference that isn’t connected to packing? Add those as well. Some ideas to get your brain going:
- Schedule shuttle for the airport
- Check-in to flight
- Look at the schedule and choose classes
- Meet with the babysitter to make sure things run smoothly while at the conference
Step 4: Prioritize Your List.
Take a look at your list and start to prioritize it. What absolutely HAS to get done in order for the trip to happen? Schedule those things first and leave the rest for “if there’s time”. I like to number my list with #1 being the first thing I tackle. Also, if there’s something that has to be done on a specific day (like check-in to flight), I put the day by that item. And since checking-in is a time sensitive item (at least if you want to board early), I’ll schedule it in my phone calendar with a reminder as well.
Step 5: Start tackling your list.
Steps 1-4 shouldn’t take you very long. Thirty minutes MAX (though 10-15 is ideal). And now that you’ve got some direction, it’s time to start crossing off those to-dos.
See? That wasn’t so hard, now was it?
If you want to see a sample action and packing list, keep reading. I’ve got a conference a week from tomorrow, and here is the action list I created:
My action list:
- Read through workshop submission and make necessary edits
- Print off workshop submission for Critique Camp
- Write verbal pitch for Pitch Bootcamp
- Prep for Manuscript Consult (write down questions I have for the agent)
- Finalize Protagonist Gala costume
- Practice Protagonist Gala makeup
- Pick out children’s books for Operation Paperback donation
- Do all my laundry
- Lay out outfits (this conference is 5 minutes from my house, so I won’t be packing or staying at a hotel)
- Target Run
- Pack day bag
- Choose classes
- Get some sleep
My general packing list:
- Clothes (an outfit per day, plus one extra)
- *Ahem* underwear
- Shoes (and socks, if your shoes require them)
- A cardigan or some sort of jacket (conference rooms can get chilly). I like something small that I can carry in my bag just in case I don’t need it
- Jewelry (because a necklace can MAKE an outfit)
- Workout clothes or a swimsuit, if you plan to workout or use the hotel pool
- Toiletries (deodorant, dental care, face wash, makeup, hair supplies, feminine hygiene, perfume, lotion)
- *Ahem* bathroom spray (especially if you’re sharing a room with someone)
- Wrinkle release spray
- Glasses/contacts and supplies
- Lavender oil to help with sleep
- Folder with schedule, flight and hotel info, and anything I printed for conference
- A book…or five 😋
- Laptop in laptop case
- Laptop charger
- Phone charger
- Business cards, if you have them
- Refillable water bottle
- Advil (or something similar)
- Tummy meds (Tums or GasX or PeptoBismal) for tummy travel issues
- Antibac soap
- Hand lotion
- Travel pack of wet wipes
- Wallet (and extra cash for the conference bookstore)
- Small carry-on backpack or bag to put books in after conference
What do you like to bring to conferences?