Wednesday, May 15, 2013

11 Money and Time Saving Conference Tips

I had a great time volunteering at the National Genealogical Society conference here in Vegas last week.  There were so many times I wanted to tell people "you know you could save money if..." but I restrained myself.  So I'll share these tips with you!

  1. Register early.  Most conferences offer a discount on the registration fee if you register before a certain date.
  2. Dress in layers.  Many conference spaces have uneven heating and cooling which means you may be roasting in one room and freezing in another, so bring a light jacket even if it is the middle of summer.  This will save you the expense of running to the hotel gift shop or vendor hall and buying a sweatshirt for no other reason than that you are freezing cold and your jacket is across town in your hotel.
  3. Bring your own water/coffee and snacks.  Most conference facilities have vending areas (or a Starbucks or other restaurants) but the prices are usually double or triple what you would pay at a grocery store.
  4. Bring lunch.  Again, you can save money by bringing your own food for lunch.  Many conferences have luncheons but you pay extra for this and while organized luncheons are great for networking and maybe catching an additional conference topic, the cost is usually double or triple what it would cost you to bring your own lunch from home or the grocery store.
  5. Be careful with add-ons.  In addition to the usual 9-5 conference classes, many conferences add additional classes/mixers/dinners/tours/etc. which you will pay extra for.  Again, while these are great for networking and/or getting a package-like tour of the area, the costs are usually quite high for the convenience.
  6. Wear comfortable shoes.  Conference facilities can be huge so you can put many miles per day on your feet which is easier to do in tennis shoes than in spike heels (which could result in the need to run to the hotel gift shop to buy some over-priced flip flops for your aching feet).
  7. Don't go crazy in the vendor area.  Most conferences include a vendor area/exhibit hall with lots of cool things for sale.  This is great for picking up hard to find items but the sheer amount of things offered for sale can make you spend like crazy.
  8. Consider public transportation.  I was amazed at the number of people who arrived at the conference in cabs while there was a perfectly good bus as well as a monorail that came straight to the conference facility.  Before you go with an obvious mode of transportation (cab, rental car), check out local public transit options as well as ride-sharing opportunities with other conference attendees.
  9. You don't necessarily have to stay at the hotel where the conference is being held. While doing so is very convenient, by doing a bit of research to see if it would be more cost efficient to stay at a hotel a little ways away from the conference and getting a multi-day public transit pass, you may save a lot of money (and don't forget checking prices at nearby AirBnBs as well!).
  10. Do your homework before you arrive.  A few people asked me "what is there to do in Las Vegas" and I looked at them like  o_0?  A bit of research before they left home would have not only informed them of the great public transportation system in Vegas ($7.50 for a 24-hour public transit pass), but tons of nearby free activities (walking the Strip, enjoying Fremont in the evening, free circus shows just down the street, etc).
  11. Look for other ways to save money based on the venue (ie: the hotel charged for wi-fi access but there was a free wi fi area set up in the conference area, one lady bought a bunch of K-cups from home because she asked what kind of coffee maker was in the room--and found that those expensive little coffee cuplets were not provided free at the hotel, the library was just a bus ride away and offered free temporary library cards for visitors and thus all the free books and movies you could want during your stay, etc).

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