Conference Hacks: Tricks for Saving Time & Money

March 16, 2015

Conference Hacks

Attending conferences is quite the expense and is easily seen as a luxury by many decision-makers at our prospective colleges and universities. After attending the most recent ACPA Convention, I kept a track of various tricks that I myself employed to save time and money during my stay.

1. HOTEL FLOOR PLACEMENT – Every time I stay at a hotel, I ask the front desk staff to do their best to place me on the lowest floor. If possible, I have them place me on a floor that doesn’t require the use of the elevator to get to where I need to go. This saves a lot of time waiting for the elevator, which can be tiresome especially when you are on a schedule to get to and from place to place. Getting a room near stairs in which you only have to go up or down one or two floors can save you a lot of time (and help you burn some calories in the process!)

2. GROCERY SHOPPING –  Having access to inexpensive and convenient food can be nearly impossible depending on the location of your conference. Many of the hotels and convention centers have a monopoly on the food market with expensive kiosks, franchises, or in-house restaurants. A small part of my soul died when I paid $3.00 for a can of Diet Coke at the Tampa Convention Center! I do my best to get around some of this by packing non-perishable snacks and other food items that will fit in my luggage (i.e., dried fruit, granola bars, candy, etc.)

Additionally, I do my best to make my way to a local grocery store and stock up on items that I can store in the hotel minifridge and / or buy a small Styrofoam cooler I can pack with ice from the hotel machine. Buying simple breakfast (i.e., yogurt, oatmeal, bagels) and lunch foods (i.e., lunch meat, fruits, salad components) can literally save you hundreds of dollars from eating every meal at the hotel or convention center. Granted, you may have to get dinner on your own, but over the course of a multi-day stay, this strategy will help you save money. I got away with eating Chobani yogurt, granola, and a banana for breakfast for three days at the ACPA convention, which probably saved me at least $45.00 or so.

3. TWITTER CROWDSOURCING – Twitter is a great resource to use to connect with colleagues to enhance your conference experience. Use the designated conference hashtag to connect with other conference attendees to share taxi rides, meet up for dinner, and even attend social events together (e.g., “Anyone interested in going to the hockey game tonight with me? #ACPA15.”) This is especially helpful if you are the only person from your institution and don’t want to be alone. Additionally, you can use Twitter to hook up with others at the conference to share work-related resources and collaborate on projects together.

4. PARKING & TRANSPORTATION – Scope out transportation and parking options prior to your leaving home. Using public transportation to and from the hotel can save you a lot of money because taxi service will be expensive if you are on a budget. Check out the bus or rail lines online for the city you are traveling to figure out the cost and timing of getting around. If driving your own, find the public parking decks close to the hotel ahead of time so you can be strategic in parking with a much cheaper option than using hotel valet or their in-house parking.

5. BAGGAGE – On a few occasions, I have packed flat, prepaid postage boxes in the bottom of my suitcase to pack with items to be sent home. Typically the airline will charge the basic bag fee for up to 50 lbs., but will whack you $100 or more for weight over that. If you know you are going to be receiving awards, books, tchotchkes from the trade show, handouts, and other weight-inducing items, it will definitely be cheaper to pack them in a box and send it. Normally you can leave the box at the hotel’s front desk, and they’ll make sure it gets picked up.

What are some other “conference hacks” that you have used to save time and money when attending regional and national conferences? Please share your thoughts below in the comments section and / or via Twitter by mentioning @studentlifeguru in your tweet. 

 

 

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“Drive-In’s, Tweet-ups, and Conventions, Oh My!” Making the Best of Your Conferencing Experience

January 31, 2012

Conference season is fast approaching with the major student affairs and higher education-related conventions occuring within the next few months. Conferences are packed with educational sessions, professional networking opportunities, and the chance to socialize and reconnect with colleagues and friends from across the country and world. I would like to offer some suggestions on how to make the most out of your conference experience.

  • Spent Time to Meet New Colleagues – I am confident to say that we are all friends in student affairs! We share the same professional culture and experiences and love discussing what we do. Nowhere can we do this more than at national and regional conferences. Introduce yourself to colleagues you are sitting next to during sessions, attend Tweet-Up’s, and participate in conversations related to what is going within our profession. Making new friends and professional connections is not only fun, but can also help you down the road if you you ever need to contact someone  outside of your own campus for objective advice or ideas.
  • Make the Most of Using Social Media – With the advent of application-ready hand-held devices, we all have the ability to share our thoughts and the thoughts of session presenters with those who are not in attendance at the conference. By using a conference-related Twitter hashtag, you can create tweets by sharing snippets of the educational information you learn during sessions as well as your own feedback (this is called the “backchannel“). Not only will this help you to pay attention to the main points, but this is basically public note-taking that you can refer to later and that your campus colleagues and superiors can follow as well. In this regard, you have a lot to share when someone asks you, “So what did you learn at the conference?”
  • Do More Than Just Interview –  For those of you who will be interviewing and networking for new positions, particularly graduate students, do not spend your whole time at the conference interviewing. By only interviewing, you are missing out on a whole host of other educational opportunities and chances to interact with professionals you normally would not have. Set a reasonable limit as to how many interviews you will schedule and take the rest of your time to participate in other conference activities.

Enjoy the conferencing season, and I hope to see you at #ACPA12.

What are some ways in which you maximize your conference experiences?


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