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Tech Tips To Rock Your Next Conference

Later this week I’ll be headed out to the Blogging While Brown Conference in New York to talk tech, do some networking, and learn a thing or two. Since I am who I am, or in Coach Dennis Green terminology “He is who we thought he is” I will be using (and sharing) some tech trips and tricks I have perfected over the years to get the most out of #BWBNYC and beyond.

Travel Management

Once I get my conference ticket, book my flight, hotel, and ground transportation arrangements, I forward those email confirmations to my TripIt account. TripIt is a website/mobile app that automagically builds an travel itinerary complete with dates and times, confirmation numbers, addresses and maps, phone numbers, and the local weather. I don’t have to hunt around a bunch of emails to get travel details, it’s all in TripIt.

I wait until the last-flippin’ minute to pack, but I’ve got a good idea in my head of what I want to pack. Apps like Packing Pro and TripList help me organize and plan what I need to pack, better than forgetting that tiny tube of tooth paste…’Cause it was in my head.

Expense Management

If I’m lucky enough to find a sponsor for a conference I want to attend, or if I want to track all my expenses for the trip for my own record, I either forward email receipts or snap pictures of my receipts with my smartphone and send them to my Shoeboxed account. Shoeboxed scans all the receipts and creates a report that I can export and keep for my records (can you say write-off?), or forward to validate my expenditures.

Another service is Lemon Wallet that can organize receipts, ID cards, credit, loyalty & rewards cards as well – Think of it as your one-stop shop for all your paper & plastic that will help you avoid digging through all your junk at the front desk.

Network Access

Once I check-in at the conference’s host hotel, I’ve learned that I can’t always trust the room or the conference Wifi. So I bring connectivity with me. For the hotel, I create my own in-room wifi using the room’s data jack and a travel router. The connectivity is stronger and more secure, since my devices are the only devices connected, and I lock-down the signal with my own password.

For the conference, I would suggest investing in either adding the mobile hotspot capabilities to your wireless carrier plan, or using a Mifi device. I prefer the latter because (a pro-tip is coming) If the conference area Wifi and my wireless carrier network is #Fail, my Mifi device from different carrier than my smartphone is a solid third option.

Taking Notes

Since I’ve invested my time (and my money) into attending conferences, I make sure to learn a thing or two. One my favorite services to take notes and keeping track of general information is Evernote. The two features that impress me the most is the ability to organize session notes, RSVP event emails, manage contact information, save content links; as well as sync it all across my smartphone, tablet, laptop and the web.

Another Pro-Tip: I can keep track other attendee notes in Evernote as well by sending all the dope Twitter RT’s to my Evernote account. That way, I can take physical notes in one session and save highlights from another session “At the same damn time!”

Evernote hater? Looking for additional options? Well, both Microsoft’s OneNote service or the Springpad app do a good job of making it easy to save/sync various types of content as well.

Mobile Blogging/Vlogging

One of my blogging flaws is that I feel I need a ton to say before I can create a blog post. (With the exception of this long post) I’m working on just getting the content out there versus crafting a mini eBook with every post. So I force myself to create conference-related content by only using my smartphone or tablet, and the WordPress app for written content and SocialCam for video content.

That way, I’m limited in the amount of content per piece because my mindset changes when I create via my mobile device versus sitting in front of my laptop or at my desk. The content is also fresher when I create on the spot versus waiting.

Contacts Management

At blogging/social media conferences, networking is essential – It gives people a chance to put a face to a Blog, Facebook page, or Twitter handle. Brands are also there and you never know where a quick in-person chat can lead. So quit faking on the Internet and start meeting people in real-life!

I got off track a little, this section is supposed to be about managing contacts. At blogging/social media conferences, you will meet a ton a people and get a ton of business cards. Instead of waiting until you get back home to forget who 70% of the business cards spread out on your bed belong to, why not take the time to digitize and organize them when as soon as you get them?

CardMunch is an app that scans business cards and searches the #1 networking site LinkedIn to create digital contacts. If a LinkedIn profile is found, the app will display their LinkedIn info with all the connections you have in common.

Evernote Hello takes business card scanning a step further and adds context to your connections. You can save meeting dates & locations, additional meeting notes, snap a real-life picture (versus the “Glamour Shot” social profile pic), and email that person your contact information, if you run out of business cards. EN Hello can even pull in data from LinkedIn, Twitter & Faceook to build a rich contact profile.

Gadget Power

What good is all the above technology if your smartphone or tablet dies 3 hours into the conference? I always have extra power with me, so here are my favorite gadgets I use to keep my devices “All the way [charged] up”

The MyCharge Peak 6000 and the Mophie Juice Pack Powerstation Duo are powerful battery packs that can simultaneously charge mobile devices repeatedly. The Peak 6000 has visual and audible queues to let you know what it’s charing up and how much power it has left, while the Powerstation Duo is sleeker and more portable.

They are bigger and a little expensive, but I prefer either of these battery packs over those extended battery cases for smartphones because they can charge all my mobile devices thare are with me at a conference/social event: My iPhone 5, Pebble smartwatch, Jawbone UP activity monitor, iPad and Bluetooth keyboard…all without fighting with other conference attendees to sit on the floor next to that ONE wall outlet…suckas!

I’ve been curating this list of go-to travel/conference/social event tech for about two years, so by all means, try out a couple and let me know what you think the next time you see me at your blogging/social media conference.

You probably have your own social event tech tips & tricks, so be sure to drop a line in the comments section to let me know what you use so we can trade notes.

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Terrance Gaines

Digital Lifestyle Concierge at BrothaTech
Husband, father, and gadget geek trying to keep my check engine light off.
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  • Deborah Davis

    Perfect timing! This is an incredibly helpful blog post full of valuable tech tips and tricks for conference attendees and travelers. I definitely plan to use this as a reference when planning for meetings, conferences and upcoming trips. Of particular interest are Card Munch and Evernote Hello. Thanks for this thoroughly useful article right in time for Blogging While Brown. Looking forward to meeting you there.

  • Tatiana

    These are GREAT suggestions! Definitely looking into the battery packs now….

    • Terrance Gaines

      Don’t let me catch you (of all people) plugging stuff into outlets, yo!

  • Nellie

    Thank you Terrence for these awesome tips. I gave evernote a try for like 6 seconds then gave up. I need to get with it again! Since I am a conference junkie, I will be bookmarking this post. :)

    • Terrance Gaines

      You gotta force yourself to use Evernote all the time to get the value.

  • Ella

    Terrance, can’t wait to see you at the conference. I didn’t realize all that Tripit could do so I’ve only been sending my flight info. I almost stopped reading this post just to start emailing other stuff…LOL..almost. Also, the receipt info was great, too. All good stuff. I didn’t spring for the Mophie Duo, dang me! but the single doesn’t seem to give me the life I want. This conference is going to cost me a bit more because I’m making a trip to the MAC store to change my ailing Macbook Pro’s battery and some other stuff because if it don’t work good, i don’t work good.

    Looking forward to seeing you and more tips!

    • Terrance Gaines

      Thanks for the comment. This should be a fun year indeed.

  • Tony Maxwell Foster

    Tech…. Thanks for the knowledge!

    • Terrance Gaines

      No problem man!

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