Eccentric Essentials: the oddities of packing for a conference

Delta Airlines: It’s Time to Check In

Wait!? The flight for New Orleans is tomorrow?!

Receiving this email a day earlier than expected, I abandoned my plan to get some last nuggets of data for my talk rushed home to prepare for BPS New Orleans. Images of surviving a Gordon Conference with only one pair of underpants fresh in my mind (don’t worry, I hand washed them every night), I wanted to be fully prepared.

There is a lot of consensus for important items to bring for a conference (BPS has their own list here). Yet people still seem to forget the obvious. Yet again, I forgot business cards, someone else will forget their adaptor. However, when learning about unusual items attendees make a point to include in conference preparation, I found two overarching categories: leveling up the fun or managing the nonideal conditions of conference life.

Leveling up the fun. As a graduate student or postdoc, we are still building our networks while having a good time. Perhaps it’s not surprising that several supplementary items center around drinking. A newly minted PhD who transitioned to industry mentioned that she always brings shot glasses (several of them). And she does an excellent job of keeping them full. This is also an economical way to socialize, since bars can be expensive. The morning after a night out, another industry scientist brings eye drops to remove the booze-induced redness common in early morning sessions. Now this is a good time to point out that drinking isn’t required for socializing. My personal favorite response came from an astronomy enthusiast who always brings his telescope to conferences (especially those with low light pollution). You can actually see Saturn’s rings, and it’s a great chance to do so while making new friends.

Managing conference life. Long days, extended periods of extroversion, and unhealthy food options makes conference life taxing. Especially for those who enjoy daily routines. Workout clothes were common in addressing these challenges. Taking breaks to exercise has unambiguously positive impacts on cognitive function and also presents an opportunity to have quality time with other attendees. Along these lines, one labmate of mine only wears comfortable shoes, regardless of style. Another, focuses on style, but brings band aids. I also add in supplements to compensate for lifestyle and dietary deficiencies. Before bed, my personal favorites are 5-hydroxytryptophan and magnesium glycinate. I am always well rested, even after a long day and a longer night. For the mornings, I bring a dozen or so hard boiled eggs with some avocado, and enjoy this food with a mixture of pu-erh, yerba, and ginger/turmeric tea. I’m happy to discuss more about the rationale behind these choices, but those curious can start by entering Tim Ferriss Titanium Tea in Google. Several attendees mentioned Vitamin B12 (for energy) and some combination of zinc and Vitamin C (for immune support). The latter of these is reminiscent of that attendee who didn’t wash their hands and proceeds to work the poster session. Don’t be that person.

Is there anything special you bring to a conference, especially to have more fun or handle the conference lifestyle? Anything big you forgot? Share more in the comments below or message me directly on Twitter @dnbunck.

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