We have lost count of the number of conferences and events we have organised over the years but there are certain essentials which we ensure are on hand at every single event we organise.
We started putting together our list, which soon rattled up to 20 conference essentials which are outlined below!
On conference days I generally have a lanyard with 2 memory sticks around my neck. Saved on the pen drives are individual copies of every presentation received in advance (with PowerPoint presentations saved in 2010/2013 but also saved down to 97-2003 version too and offline versions of Prezi presentations and video files). This not only makes the loading process streamlined on the morning of the conference but also enables me to save the final versions of the presentations at the end of the day (there will almost always be changes and tweaks or even brand new presentations uploaded during the course of the conference which I want to ensure I have the final copy of). Memory sticks can occasionally corrupt or malfunction so we don’t leave anything to chance by only having one copy (if I am honest I will often have four or five copies in total on site!).
2. Mobile Phone
Speakers, clients, staff and other important guests all have my mobile number and are urged to contact me at any time of the day or night if they need to. Once the event gets underway though I am in the main room, my phone is on silent and text messages become an essential form of communication between me and rest of the team, messaging that a speaker has arrived, checking that catering is in place and ready on time, letting staff know if we are running to time or slightly behind schedule, giving a tally of final numbers that have checked in and other vital information.
3. Event Managers Box
Our event managers box is a treasure trove of useful items which always seem to come in handy. It includes items such as gaffa tape, scissors, bluetack, velcro, flipchart paper and markers, post it notes, string, stapler and staples, cable ties, elastic bands, string, pens, plain paper, spare badges, tape, safety pins, business cards and lots more. We have these items in an easy transportable plastic crate and time and time again it is worth its weight in gold!
4. Spare Printed Event Programmes
However many times you circulate this in advance and hand out copies within the delegate folders you will always need multiple spare copies on hand at the lectern or top table, to pass to the audio visual technicians, Chair, speakers, staff and anyone else who loses their copy. Even if you have an event app don’t scrimp on spare copies of these!
5. Hard Copies of Other Important Information
I also ensure that I have hard copies and spare copies of any important information I may need to access or share quickly. Typically this is extra copies of the Chair Notes, Staff Briefing, dietary requirements and Twitter speaker details as a minimum.
I do my utmost to ensure that every event we run keeps to time as accurately as possible. To do this I need a watch that can be read easily and accurately with a simple glance rather than getting my phone out each time. Apparently wearing a watch is becoming a thing of the past but for event managers on conference days it is a very wise move!
7. Bottle of Water
Event days can be hard work and we often cover miles during the course of an event (wearing a pedometer is always enlightening!). You can also spend a lot of time talking -welcoming people, giving briefings, directing people and so forth. A bottle of water is wise to keep you hydrated as inevitably you are briefing a speaker or making some adjustments when the refreshment breaks are taking place and so miss out on a brew!
8. Back up of Important Information/Remote Access to the Office
When I am on site at an event I also make sure I have the essential documents and information for the event and other forthcoming events at my fingertips in digital format if I need them. Time and time again you just need to check on something unanticipated or adapt the event PowerPoint holding slide or signage template and so having the files saved to a pen drive and/or being able to log in remotely to your office computer is a valuable time saver.
9. Pens and Paper
Have a good stock of pens and paper because you are the first person people will turn to when they need them! I always seem to hand out pens “left, right and centre” on event days and inevitably you don’t get them back again! You don’t want to be left short when you need to write down an important note to self for quick reference.
I have laminated 5 and 10 minute timings cards and a red skull and cross bones (to signify that time is up – get off the podium!). I find this is a really simple but effective way to warn speakers when they are approaching the last 10 and 5 minutes of their presentation slot and when they need to wrap up as a matter of urgency.
11. Wireless Mobile Mouse and Laser Pointer
Even if a speaker is happy to stand at the lectern a wireless mobile mouse is an tool appreciated by almost all speakers to advance slides, particularly experienced and academic speakers. The laser pointer can also be invaluable, particularly when explaining complex data.
12. Laptop, Speakers and Printer
We generally always aim to have a spare laptop available, as well as a printer and audio speakers “just in case.” This is so useful if a member of staff needs to create a notice or print something quickly – otherwise you can wait for half an hour or more to trouble the venue to do it, particularly if they don’t have a dedicated conference office/business services. Likewise if a speaker decides to play a video in their workshop without notifying you in advance it is great to be responsive and oblige them.
Quickly I am wondering how I managed without my tablet in every area of my life! I find it particularly valuable on event days though in terms of managing social media accounts and being responsive.
14. Radios and Headsets
On larger events radios and headsets/earpieces are worthwhile, particularly if phone reception is intermittent. Communication is key and on large events they can save a lot of leg work and by communicating to the team collectively – much more efficiently than your mobile phone.
15. Arrow Signs
We plan and think about signage requirements on our site visits before the event but arrows always come in useful! We have plenty of laminated arrows in our event managers box and they regularly get utilized!
Your smartphone and tablet will gobble power on event days so don’t forget your chargers. Being out of contact is not an option! Likewise you can often come to the rescue of a speaker in distress if you have a compatible charger they can borrow for a quick power top up.
17. Twitter List of all the Speakers
Twitter is a great asset to many events and we want to encourage as much social media activity and buzz as possible. Generally we will try to add Twitter handles to our speaker biogs and encourage the speakers to include this prominently on their presentation slides. Make sure you have a quick reference list to hand though for tweets on site that can’t be pre-scheduled.
18. Items to Keep You Looking Presentable
Deodorant. And hairbrush. And lipgloss. Basically bring along anything you need to keep you looking presentable, however early the start or however long the day!
Sometimes there isn’t time for eating and other times you simply don’t want to be away from a minute of the event! It is therefore wise to pack a cereal bar or snack to keep your sugar levels topped up.
20. Comfortable Shoes
I love my heels but I wouldn’t dream of wearing them on an event day. I am there to do my job quickly and efficiently rather than to look pretty. Practicalities win every time!
We would love to hear about your essentials or any items we have missed from our list in the comments below!