I've been to many conferences and conventions over the years and I learn something new all the time. Here are some of the best things I've spent thousands of company dollars while learning. These tips will save you money, time and hassle while attending your conference or business meeting.
Use your cell phone and call yourself in the future
No this isn't science fiction. When you get your room number, call your cell phone with it. Sure it may be only three or four digits and not work, but it's in your phone log (don't do this if your room is 911). You may also do this with a taxi company, the address of the hotel or the hotel front desk as well so you have the numbers. Less things to remember after a few drinks late at night.
Take the cover off your bed
Hotels change sheets every night but how about that top comforter? Rarely. It could be weeks or even months, even in the nicest hotels. When have you seen the daily maid cart in the hallway overflowing with those heavy blankets? Probably never. The first thing to do in a hotel room is to carefully remove that cover and put it in a corner of the room, away from anything you personally own or touch.
Get two beds in your hotel room
Sure the king bed and all it's pillows is luxurious and nice to sleep in but think about having a whole extra bed to spread your stuff out across. Maybe you need more work surface. Maybe you need more space to sort out your clothes and freebies from the conference. It's like having a conference table in your hotel room. Rooms with two beds are usually the last to go too. So they are always available. Look at this fact like it's a good thing. Be happy those king beds are sold out. Remember to pull the top cover off from both beds. No sense in putting a clean shirt on the dirty cover.
Stay at the conference hotel
So the host hotel is the most expensive one near your conference? It's $40 more than this other hotel? Well, it is probably worth it. And it may even save you money. Are you going to take a cab to the conference each day? There's $10-$30. Are you going to wait for the free shuttle? There's an hour or more wasted. I've seen hundreds of people waiting in the cold for a 15 seat shuttle and it's not pretty. Add in that time you forget something in the hotel room and have to run back. You also have to set your alarm earlier to allow for the transportation versus sleeping in for a short and leisurely walk down to the conference. If the hotel is hosting the event or is right next door, you probably won't need a jacket like that other guy is stuck with all day. I arrive at the conference relaxed while other people look like they went through a airport security screening just minutes ago.
The convenience of being able to go back to your room quickly and easily is very valuable. You spend less time in transportation and more time networking or relaxing. Maybe you have a convention with those long breaks. You can either sit around the hall and waste time or run back to your room in a few minutes. You can easily drop off your tote bag or laptop or that nice vendor gift in your room before the evening mixer or a night out on the town. I've seen people drunk at parties at 10pm still carrying around their conference bag. It's tiring. It's embarrassing. It's not secure. You may leave it somewhere or mess it up at a bar or in a bathroom. Others may take an extra taxi ride back to their hotel and then back to the conference for nightly events. There go the savings they thought they had.
Your boss just sees the hotel rate difference and you staying at a four star hotel versus a three star? Tell him about the extra taxi cost, the increased risk of losing company property or data and the added time you are spending learning all for the company. Don't smirk while saying it. If you book early enough, their may be a group rate that makes it cheaper than many nearby hotels. Or another riskier tactic is to wait till the last minute when all other hotels are full and the only one available is the high priced conference hotel. I have done this successfully but there are many things that are totally out of your control and you could wind up at a fleabag rest stop on the dark side of the interstate.
Drink and eat often
Stay hydrated. Drink lots of water. Bring a few snacks along with you if you can carry them. Maybe its breakfast bars, protein bars, or zip lock bags of nuts. It's good to have something that you like on hand if the conference food is bad or if your energy is dragging. If the food is provided, it'll probably disappear quickly. I like to grab an extra banana or apple and also a juice or water to tuck in my bag. It's a must have for those mid-morning or mid-afternoon breaks. I notice those envious looks around me when I crack into one when it's still another couple hours to lunch or dinner.
Room service in the hotel is always a rip off. Even if you have to take a taxi to a store and buy your own snacks, you'll be way ahead. One drink in the room probably costs you five dollars alone. If your room doesn't have one, ask for a fridge. Most of the time, they can provide one for you. Then you can fill it up with your own drinks and snacks for the conference. Or maybe need it to keep some medicine cold at all times if they don't want to give it to you (hint).
Bring a little bottle of hand sanitizer
If you are drinking lots of water like you should, you also need to use those conference rest rooms. They are not always the cleanest with all the traffic they are getting throughout the day. I always use my own sanitizer after using a rest room, any public surfaces and before eating. I also like to bring zinc logenzes to help keep colds away. I take a couple a day, especially while traveling.
Know when to tip and how much
We have the AllStays guide to tipping here but it's important to mention here in brief. It's good to know how much and when to tip. I like to tip a bit heavier at the start of a week or on the first drink of the night. This tends to get you better service the rest of the time. You may not tip as heavily throughout the conference but they don't know that. And it may just benefit you in the end as well. Here's an example. I buy a soda at the bar and it's a dollar or two. If you leave a quarter or don't tip at all because “it's only a cheap soda”, you wind up having to pay for and probably wait longer for refills all night. Many times I've tipped the price of the soda or even a couple dollars more on the first one and then gotten free fast refills all night. It isn't foolproof but it's worked far more often than not. Then leave another tip as you see fit or when you leave. The savings have really added up by the end of the night, along with the extra sugar and calories because they probably refilled it more than you would have actually boughten that night.
Keep a copy of your travel itinerary
Always print out information for your flights and your hotel and keep it with you the entire trip. You can leave it in your luggage while at the hotel but make sure you leave it where it could be taken as trash either. This helps if there is any problem with your reservation or rates. You just show it to the person and it's usually solved. And sometimes after a few days, you get your departure time mixed up with another trip you just had. It's good to be able to look up the correct information. Going back to step one in this list, enter the airline, flight number and date in your cell phone as another precaution. If you lose all this information by the end of the week, you may want to cut back on the networking at the bar.
I know there are many great tips that I'm missing so please feel free to contribute yours here.