How to survive a working conference

I’ve just returned from my company’s annual customer conference in Las Vegas,  an event that meant 12 hours of standing booth duty, 7 short theatre presentations, 6 hours of one-on-one meetings with industry analysts,  5 days of restaurant or conference meals, 4 very late nights in casino bars socializing with colleagues, and at least 3 16-oz cups of coffee daily (that was the good part!).

However, with a little bit of advance planning and some judicious choices, I was able to survive the week without feeling sluggish and in need of post-event detox.  Here are three tips that worked for me….

1. Pay the $25 to check your bags
Road warriors will encourage you to optimize your packing into a single rollaboard to avoid a long wait at the baggage carousel and the possibility of lost luggage.  This is well and good for frequent flyers, but the rigors of working a conference demand an assortment of shoes as well as fresh clothes every day, because one evening in a smoke-filled casino bar renders your outfit unwearable again.

I wore every one of the five pairs of shoes in this photo:

  • Cork sandals – light and open, freeing my toes after being encased all day
  • Black patent low-heeled Aerosoles – about as comfortable as it gets when you must stand on a concrete pavilion floor for 5 hours straight
  • Black suede heels – impractical for booth duty, but a less dowdy alternative for analyst and customer meetings, where you want to look like a professional walking into the room but will be mostly sitting
  • Flip flops – the closest thing to walking around barefoot, which feels damn good after standing for several hours
  • Sneakers – for exercising (see #3)

2. Buy healthy snacks as soon as you arrive
You know from this post that I’d like to avoid eating too much high calorie, high fat, high sodium restaurant food when I travel. I used to relish restaurant eating, feeling I deserved the treat as compensation for the hardship of being away from home. But whether it’s because of middle-age or maturity, I no longer feel good about myself when I don’t treat myself with care – especially when I’m experiencing work stress and lack of sleep.

Unfortunately, Las Vegas hotels want you to eat in the pricey restaurants that circle the casinos, so there are no grocery stores on or near the Strip. And to make matters worse, the in-room refrigerators are fully stocked and electronically monitored – this means you can’t pull out the mini bottles of Dewars and Absolut to replace them with Greek yogurt and baby carrots, because even a jiggle will result in charges being added automatically to your hotel tab.

So, as soon as I dropped by luggage off in my room I headed out to the Walgreen’s I’d seen near the hotel entrance, hoping I could at least pick up some nuts.  It was a bonus to find the store also carried fresh fruit! Armed with some apples and oranges, a can of almonds, a large bottle of water, and of course dark chocolate, I was prepared to avoid unhealthy snacking and over-indulging.

fitness gym

3. Bring your workout clothes and pay for the fitness center pass
As I was packing for my trip, I deliberated over including my gym clothes. Looking at my schedule for the week, I wasn’t sure how I would squeeze in time to exercise.  But hey, since I was planning to check my luggage at the airport I decided it wouldn’t hurt to throw a few more things into my suitcase.  I also knew from staying at the event hotel last year that there was a significant daily cost to use the fitness center (part of the Canyon Ranch Spa) that I would not be able to expense, and that I’d have to commit to the daily fee at check-in. So I did.

Things worked out great for me on the first day, as the conference hadn’t yet started and I easily found time not only to work out but to explore the spa and discover its relaxation lounge!  And then the conference kicked into high gear and, just as at home, it was challenging to make time to exercise.  One morning, however, I set my alarm early to finish writing a presentation I was to deliver that afternoon. I finished my work much more quickly than I’d expected and thought about my choices: go back to bed, go to a restaurant and eat a proper breakfast, go down to the fitness center for 30 minutes on the elliptical. I chose the gym, reasoning that getting blood flowing to my lower extremities would be beneficial later that evening after standing at a demo station for hours.  My new motto: if you don’t bring your workout clothes you can’t work out!

I’m very happy with the choices I made last week. Because of these three tips, I not only survived a grueling business conference – I thrived!

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6 Responses to How to survive a working conference

  1. Great advice. I always try to throw in my sneakers. I’d rather have them and not use them than want them and not have em. Even if I do one workout- it breaks up a trip.
    And praise be ‘walgreens’!

  2. I just want to say I have no need to figure out how to pack for a work trip. As a stay at homer, formerly a teacher my working career outside the home will commence shortly, but always in the same city. However I still found your post very interesting and read it and the ones below through. You have an easy and enjoyable writing style. And that you are able to do this while holding down two other full time jobs. Wow. Your time will come. When the girls are older everything gets so much easier. Busier, but easier. Especially once they start driving : )

    • Hi Dana,
      Thanks for reading! I don’t have to travel too much, which is why I think I’m so inefficient when I do! And I do have one driver now, which I’m finding much more useful than I ever thought I would!

  3. I bring compression socks too to help with recovery from conference booth duty. Congrats on surviving with flair!

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