“A smile is the most important thing to pack for the conference, because with it you can conquer the world,” says J.A. Rodriguez Jr., CSP, SGE, global senior leader of environmental health, safety and sustainability at Raytheon.
Other attendees say they are focused on creating a list of physical items they can pack to help them travel comfortably and make the most of their networking and learning opportunities during their trip. These include universally practical things, such as PowerPoint remotes, pens, thumb drives, lint rollers and snacks, but also highly personal items such as extra prescription medications, colorful reading glasses and photos of family members to show old friends.
“Having a plan will help you minimize the amount of walking around in circles,” says Tim Page-Bottorff, CSP, CET, senior consultant with SafeStart. “Trust me, I have walked in circles with the hope my memory would not fail me. Your memory is not a failsafe device.”
If you still need some inspiration for how to fill your suitcase, let 10 Professional Development Conference veterans give you a hand. Here are the objects they say they can’t live without.
1. A power strip.
Mary L. Silva, CSP, PDC Planning Committee chair and senior consultant in risk engineering for property and casualty insurer Crum and Forster, says her power strip will be one of the most important things she brings to Safety 2018.
“It’s so you don’t have to go plugging in devices all over your hotel room, especially if you’re sharing a room with someone. Inevitably, someone will be charging their phone in the bathroom!”
2. A pedometer.
Frank Coleman, CSP, a cryogenics safety engineer at NASA, says he’ll be wearing a pedometer to the conference so he can count his steps and use his down time to focus on fitness – or at least prove to himself that he’s earned a delicious dinner at the end of the day.
“You might as well get credit for all the steps you will be taking during the week.”
3. A wallet or checkbook.
Josh Reed, GSP, environmental, health, safety and workers’ compensation specialist at DanoneWave North America, is heading to San Antonio with the intention of putting his money where his values are. That’s why he says he’s packing a checkbook to contribute to the ASSE Foundation and help up-and-coming safety professionals the way he was helped at the start of his career.
“The ASSE Foundation, and the financial support it has provided students, has helped thousands of young environmental health and safety professionals with the financial burden of higher education. The support is not just money. It is an investment in the future of saving lives and the environment.”
4. Comfortable shoes.
Alyssa Weber, CSP, corporate EHS engineer at MilliporeSigma, knows that comfort is key to her ability to enjoy herself and use her time at Safety 2018 effectively. She says she’s packing a few pairs of shoes that are made for walking – and there’s a good reason.
“At my first national Professional Development Conference, I wanted to dress to impress and brought comfortable heels. That was a painful lesson!”
5. Lip balm.
Leslie Batterson, CSP, senior consultant at AON Global Risk Consulting, isn’t just considering the big stuff she’ll need, such as professional clothing or a notepad for writing things down. She also says she’s thinking small, taking the time to consider what she’ll be doing at the conference and when she’s out and about in the San Antonio sun. That’s why she’s making sure there is at least one tube of lip balm in her bag.
“Talking is exhausting and we will be in Texas, where it’s hot and dry.”
6. Lots of business cards.
To prepare for the nearly endless networking opportunities at Safety 2018, Page-Bottorff says he’s stocking up on business cards. These can help you stay in touch with people you meet, but also serve as a first point of contact for people you would otherwise miss.
“It is impossible to meet with every vendor, society leader or friend, so in passing, slip them a business card to remind them to catch up.”
In addition to having a stack of your own business cards, Page-Bottorff believes it’s a good idea to make space in your conference badge or bag to store the cards others give you.
“If an encounter is important to you, put that person’s info in your badge holder and use it as a reminder to follow up with them,” he says. “Stay organized and it will help you when you return to the hectic pace of your work and home life.”
7. A sweater or jacket.
It would be easy to assume that in the heat of a San Antonio summer you wouldn’t need any outer layers of clothing to keep yourself warm. But according to Linda Rhodes, CSP, project manager at Commonwealth Edison, it’s better to be safe than sorry – especially when you know you’ll be in the convention center for a large portion of each day.
“I’ve learned the indoor temperatures are inversely proportional to the outdoor temperatures,” she says. “It’s no fun freezing in June!”
8. A stuffed animal that doubles as a pillow.
Not everyone is as interested in traveling with plush toys as Gail House, CSP, principal safety manager at Walt Disney World, and that’s OK. What’s really important, she says, is considering your own comfort when you travel. Indulging your inner child might not hurt, either.
“My favorite thing on my packing list is a stuffed animal that doubles as a pillow on the plane,” she says. “My little stuffed guy keeps me company in the room.”
9. A portable battery.
Many safety professionals have had this experience: You’re traveling for work, you meet someone important and you go to add their contact information to your phone’s address book. All of a sudden, you realize the battery has died and, after scrambling unsuccessfully for a pen and paper, the person politely excuses herself and you miss out on what could have been a great opportunity. That’s one reason Thomas Kramer, P.E., CSP, managing principal at LJB Inc., is bringing a portable battery to Safety 2018.
“You tend to take a lot of pictures at the conference and check email from your device rather than your computer, which drains the power,” he says. “As a bonus, you can always loan a portable battery to a friend or use it to make a new friend.”
10. A suitcase with plenty of space.
David Finley, CSP, director of occupational health and safety at Dolese Bros. Co., is going one step further with his packing list. He’s considering not only what he will bring, but also what he won’t bring. He knows from his experience at past conferences that he’ll need to bring a large suitcase that isn’t full of items from home.
“You couldn’t walk away from the expo empty handed if you wanted to, so leave extra space in your suitcase when you pack,” he says.