This will be my first BlogHer conference, but I'm not new to blogging conferences. I've had the pleasure of attending both the Shes Connected and Blissdom Canada conferences last year and am so psyched about being able to attend again at both this year as well! So here's my checklist of what tech gadgets to bring (and how to prep them) to any conference that you may be going to, be it next week, a few months from now, or even next year!
1. Being Smart With Your Phone
There's this running joke that only at blogger conferences would you and your pals text each other, even if you're sitting side by side. Which is really fun to do, and makes for great photos, but what happens when all of this texting is happening when you're roaming?
If you're travelling into the States for the BlogHer conference, please find out what your options are for sending/receiving txts, using your Data plan, heck, even just to make a phone call from your service provider.
This information is focused solely on Rogers, so if you're using Telus, Fido, etc, go give them a call right now if you haven't prepared your phone for your travels yet.
If I went south without prepping my smartphone, I would be coming home extremely happy from meeting so many fabulous people, and being privy to so many fantastic conversations, but I would probably be a blubbering mess the moment I received my phone bill in September. Wireless infrastructure costs us an arm and a leg when we're making local conversations, like, "Honey? Did you pick up the milk?" But if you thought that other arm and leg were scott-free, you were mistaken. You see, Rogers waits until you go border-crossing before they place dibs on that other half of your self.
Simply calling to say, "Hey Honey, I've landed, safe and sound!" will cost you $1.45 ($1.45/min through Rogers.)
"Hey babe, how are the kids?" and the resulting five-minute explanation, $8.70.
"Mommy, where arrrreeeeee yoooooouuuuuuu?? I miss you! Come home! Daddy is being meeeeaaaaaaannnnnnn! He won't let me have fun!! *sob* (Yelling into the phone at Daddy) Mommy lets me all the TIME!" and you're calming responses may be priceless, but it could also very well be the equivalent of three Mocha Lattes from Starbucks or more. Do you really want to miss out on those Lattes???
Bottom line, roaming charges are pricey. But your phone company has a solution for that. They're willing to charge you at a special rate upfront so that you don't get charged the extra-special rate later on.
Sounds a bit like Bob coming to your respectable place of business and wanting to charge you a friendly-fee just so he doesn't stay up and damage your merchandise while you're home fast-asleep, doesn't it?
Or like Sam who took your lunch money just so you could be on his "good" side at school, right?
So Rogers has a number of travel plans available to suit your needs, and I'm looking for both calling and texting. Surprisingly, there is only one combo for this....
Is $40 worth it for 4o minutes of calling, 100 sent text messages and unlimited received messages? Well, if you think you're going to be spending roughly 30 minutes on the phone to talk to your loved ones at home over the course of the next few days, then yeah it's worth it. Five minutes a day for five days equals to $36.25 and three texts a day for five days is $11.25 (that's sending AND receiving three texts a day altogether). So you're looking at $47.50 for bare-minimum communication.
There are ways to work around these numbers - for instance - if you and your family only communicate over Skype - and if you have easy access to free unlimited wifi, all you would need is Skype and possibly their $2/month North American subscription, just in case your family has stepped away from the computer, right when you need to urgently speak with them the most.
Most, if not all, smartphones these days can handle the Skype app, so you can call and receive messages away from your computer too (Please note, Skype SMS does cost extra!)
There are also apps out there that allow you to send texts free from the US to all over the globe - BUT, what those apps don't really tell you is that they're not responsible for non-members text messaging fees. So if you have a smartphone with a crazy cool free txting app, but your hubby has a really old phone that doesn't know what an app is, then they're going to incur long distance txt charges, which totally negates the whole trying to save $$$ thing.
There is also the Rogers One Number online program for their customers, that lets you make unlimited local calls, texts, and even video calls using your wireless number to any Canadian phone number for free, without deducting anything from your monthly minute, nor your text messaging allowance. So if your computer has great wifi coverage, then you can send unlimited text messages and phone calls to friends and family for free. Unfortunately, they don't have a smartphone app - so this program only works when you're attached to your desktop/laptop... and possibly even your tablet. Using your phone as a phone with this service is highly improbable without a lot of patience and time that you probably won't have.
Also, unless you get a great plan for roaming purposes, turn your data packet completely off. How to do so is different from phone to phone, but just make sure that you have Wi-Fi as the only method to receive data on your phone, or accessing Twitter, Facebook, Apps or general websites on your phone and/or tablet will be costly.
Okay, so now that we've got roaming communication set up...
2. Get Your Note-Taking Skills Pumped Up
You will want a tablet and or a pad of paper and pen for conference discussions. Or both. Don't leave it to your memory to remember the crucial key elements that you'll learn during each and every panel discussion. For the next few days, you are going to go into information overload, which is why you'll want copious amounts of caffeine and water to keep yourself awake... I've actually fallen asleep at a really informative panel, not because it was boring, but because I had too much information running through my brain, so it needed to shut down at the most inopportune moment. Just bring any and all recording devices at hand so that you'll know what everyone was talking about!
If allowed (still pending on finding the answer) I might go as far as using my smartphone to record the panel audio for the presentations that I'll really want to remember. It brings me back to those school days where I had to record the professor, 'cause I just knew I wasn't going to remember anything from class!
Your camera will be a fantastic option for taking pics of the powerpoint presentations. If the current slide has some info that you don't want to miss taking note of, take a quick pic and jot it down in your notebook later that night.
3. Keep Your Wireless Devices On All Day Everyday
Regardless of brand, all of our electronic gears suck, literally. Sometimes at alarming rates. The amount of electricity that is drained every hour to keep our phones, tablets, notebooks and even our cameras, is kinda scary all on its own, but the stress involved if any of these devices kick the bucket at a crucial moment can also be devastating. There are ways to keep your devices charged for as long as you need.
- Check and re-check that you have all of your power cords and chargers before you leave.
- Bring back-up chargers. I have a sweet Duracell charger that I can hook up to any of my gadgets that can charge by USB - get one!
- Bring a power bar for your room. There will be 1 to 4 people in your room, and most rooms have at max four outlets (do NOT use the bathroom to charge your electronics - steamed rooms and your smartphone's warranty do not mix.) - so bring a power bar that can hold at least four devices so that you can charge everything you've brought, all at once, every night.
Have any tech q's about conference going? Let me know below, and I'll do my best to answer them!