Unpacking Our Best Practices for How to Pack For Your Events

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Episode description

Planning an event is a tall task in itself, and making sure everything is packed and ready to go only adds to the stress. So how can you make the packing process more efficient without worrying about forgetting the essentials?

In this episode, hosts Rachel Andrews and Paulina Giusti sit down to unpack the key to a successful packing experience. You’ll hear their insights on how to utilize spreadsheets and checklists to ensure nothing is left behind. You’ll also learn the significance of planning before the packing phase, ensuring your entire team is accounted for. And hear Rachel and Paulina’s personal packing lists they wouldn’t dream of leaving behind.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How to create a successful packing plan
  • How to utilize checklists
  • How a general contractor can help save on shipping costs

Things to listen for:

[01:02] Developing a packing plan
[05:13] Being intentional with your packing setup
[09:50] Rachel’s key items to be sure to pack
[12:30] Paulina’s best practices for packing

Meet your host

Rachel Andrews, Senior Director of Global Meetings and Events, Cvent
Paulina Giusti, Senior Manager of Meetings and Events, Cvent

Episode Transcript

Paulina: The setup, to Rachel's point is really intentional because it helps us stay organized throughout the week. Everything has a home, everything has a place. We're able to look at the inventory and see how things are progressing through the week.

Especially when it comes to swag, right? In some cases, you don't want to give all the swag out on the first day or second day of the conference, you want to make sure that you have stuff to give away throughout the remainder of the event. On the flip side you also want to make sure that you're handing out, significant amounts so you're not spending a ton of money just to ship all of the product back home.

For us, the way that we set this up not only benefits the meetings and events team, but also allows for our marketing partners and other partners supporting the programming on-site to be self-service too. 

Alyssa: Great events create great brands and it takes a village to put on an event that engages, excites and connects audiences to your brand. And we’re that village. I’m Alyssa, I’m Paulina, and I’m Rachel. And you’re listening to Great Events. The podcast for all people interested in events and marketing.

Paulina: What is going on party people? Welcome to this week's episode of Great Events, a podcast by Cvent. My name is Paulina and I'm joined by my amazing cohost, Rachel. What's up Rach?

Rachel: What's going on, guys?

Paulina: So today we're going to take a different approach to the podcast conversation. We've been talking about how it's the fall event season, everyone's preparing for trade show travel, annual conference travel. And with that comes this sort of theme of best practices around packing. And, there's so many ways to look at this. There's ways to pack for the event from a personal standpoint.

There's ways to pack for the event from equipment, inventory, printing perspective, what needs to go, onsite versus to different vendors. So we figured we would unpack all of that goodness unpack how to pack for your events that you have coming up this fall and winter season.

Let's just get into it. We have actually a pretty prescriptive process in terms of how we think about our shipping, our packing, our printing manifest particularly before our large conferences. And for us, we leverage, a pretty straightforward Excel hate to admit that it's Excel.

There's nothing sexy about it. But it has columns for who's requesting a particular item to be packed, who's requesting something to be printed or designed, the volume, the quantity, what program area it's associated to, if this is something that has a cost associated to it. We'll have, not only that program area, but perhaps that budget line item that it should be associated to.

For us, this starts, I want to say, pretty early on in the planning process. We leverage Slack. That's our preferred communication tool. And essentially, we pin this file to the Slack channel and all of our core team members who either lead a program area, support a program area, contribute to the content for a program area.

They all have access to this file and it's a really great resource for us to look to see, you know, is there anything missing from a collateral perspective? We try to limit obviously a lot of our printing needs just to have a more sustainable event experience. But, for some of our training programs, we offer a workbook, right? And so those workbooks need to be sent to our printer and shipped on-site. And so there's a dedicated effort for that. And we want to make sure we're as like, I said, scientific around tracking all of it to ensure that all of the good materials, support materials and quite frankly, some of particular needs to host the event, right? Signage. Some of the particulars for our staff office, all of that makes it on site. And with that, the pack, ship and print manifest is essentially created. And so with that, we create all of our shipping labels and we have something to refer back to if there's an issue on site, and we're unable to track something down.

Which inevitably we all know the pain of that and what that experience is like when you don't have a tracking number. Rach, anything to add there as it relates to our pre event process?

Rachel: Yeah, pack the ship manifest. Yes. We do a lot of very calculated ordering for onsite. And then we set it up in a very meticulous way when we're in our staff office. And I think for me, it's like peace of mind, but it's also just helpful for the rest of the staff that's there because it's very well organized and clearly labeled.

So I would break down our kind of war room or command center if you don't prefer the term war room. Command center into a couple of different areas.

So that it's easy once somebody walks into war room or command center, they know exactly where they're going and what they're looking for because we have it clearly labeled.

Our command center is extensive. We have a lot of different teams that sit in there to start with. We have our, obviously, our core logistics and planning event design team that also sits with our event marketing and event tech team. And then we have 2 other sections. We have, call it, our creative and production services side, and that's anything from video editing to onsite support from a tech production standpoint, streaming oversight, and then our creative designers, sitting in one area.

And then the other is all the content folks, and sales enablement people that help us with great content that we produce. Now on another level, we also have everything from the print ship manifest that supports our people. 

And we break it down into a couple of different areas, and we like to print out labels that we paste on the walls, sorry hotels, we try to use friendly tape, but we put it on the walls to make sure people know where all the areas are. And I break it down into a couple of different areas. So we have first, which is my favorite and a lot of people's favorite, it's the wellness area. And that can be different snacks, mints, gum, safety pins hairspray. Basically anything that you could have for, powdering your nose all the way up to cough drops, right?

So we really think through all the onsite needs from just not just like our team. Cause our team obviously needs dry shampoo, all the time. But that up to Tylenol, things for your feet, and the occasional wine, but don't tell anybody. Those types of things we have in the wellness area. So that's a popular one.

The second area I would say is the, let's call it the IT tech space. So we have a printing station. We have mobile chargers. We have extra laptops. We have power banks for laptops, things like that, that are wonderful IT support team comes and helps set up to support both our staff, but also, different programming areas throughout the conference that need that support.

We try not to print too much on-site, but when we do need a printer, it's really nice to have that station. The 3rd station would be our signage area. That's even more fun because we line that the signage up and then we put signage on top of the signage to label what day and what programming area all the signage goes to. So it's a little bit meta, but we have signage for our signage area. The second to last thing would be our programming area. So we'll set up our different tables by the programming area. So if it's a customer area where, like our customer advocate area, we'll set up everything that they need for the entire conference, and that could be anything from signage to the giveaways.

And then we do that by programming area. So like our excellence awards has an area. Our, another customer area, our tech demos or tech tours. Those all have different sections where people can clearly see in the room what’s what.

And then lastly, I think the sponsor area is where other sponsors have shipped things. Now, I think Paulina mentioned, we do ship a lot of things to our general contractor, cause it does save shipping costs and handling fees if we do that directly. So that's a pro tip. If you don't already do that, you should be working with your GSC to do those things.

It's a very well thought out room. And, this comes with years and years of experience doing these massive war rooms. We have a very extensive process. So I think that was what you were looking for, but we are very strategic when it comes to that.

Paulina: Yeah, love it. And, one of the, just like you mentioned, the general shipping to the general contractor. This also is another good best practice. If you're not able to ship things to show site. If you have a tight turnaround window to get access to some of your items, having your general contractor be able to deliver them and unpack them in a pretty timely fashion is beneficial too.

So you've heard how we think about packing experience for our conference. The setup, to Rachel's point, is really intentional because it helps us stay organized throughout the week. Everything has a home, everything has a place. We're able to look at the inventory and see how things are progressing through the week.

Especially when it comes to swag, right? In some cases, you don't want to give all the swag out on the first day or second day of the conference, you want to make sure that you have stuff to give away throughout the remainder of the event. On the flip side you also want to make sure that you're handing out, significant amounts so you're not spending a ton of money just to ship all of the product back home.

For us, the way that we set this up not only benefits the meetings and events team, but also allows for our marketing partners and other partners supporting the programming on-site to be self-service too. 

So we've actually really leaned into it. And so have our partners and we've seen just like a ton of efficiencies from it. And when it comes to packing up, obviously we're in a really great place for an efficient pack up process. Nobody wants to be the last person taping the last box, 5 o'clock hours after the event has wrapped.

So we've made strides in terms of packing as we go, right? If a particular program's over, let's say you have an invite-only program, you can start to pack up all of the elements that took place or supported that programming in real-time. We've seen efficiencies for that.

It certainly helps us wrap much faster. And who doesn't want to do that? As we're talking about it, I feel like we also have our own sort of personal best practices when it comes to preparing and packing for days on the road, international travel. I think it'd be fun reach if we rounded out this week's episode with maybe our top 3 to 5 personal packing best practices.

What do you think?

Rachel: Yeah, that's great. I also want to share with our listeners, maybe our personal packing lists because don't call it OCD because it's just efficient and we're planners and we know we travel a lot. And so we know we need certain things but for me, I was joking with Paulina that I alternate between suitcases and one is always packed at all times with the things that I always travel with. So that saves some time, but also maybe just laziness.

I say it's efficiency, as opposed to laziness. But, I think Paulina and some of our other people on the team, in marketing are very similar in the fact that like some people I know have made spreadsheets of what they're packing and daily lists or even PowerPoints of all the things.

And I'm like, okay, that's a little too much. I am a post it note or a index card gal. And I lay it out on my bed. So I know exactly what outfits are going which day. But, personally, these are some like “must pack, cannot live without”, things that I bring to, and I don't know if I can narrow it down to 3.

But a portable speaker is my number 1. I have to have music in my life at all times to get me pumped up. So I always carry like a tiny little JBL. Those little things also are bluetooth speakers that, we've used in the past to jump on Zoom calls with, so it also helps tech support some stuff but also, bathroom dance party while doing makeup it at 6am. And I'm sure my neighbors love me.

Paulina: We do

Rachel: Number two would be some fresh sneaks. I'm loving the trends of people, that I know men have had the luxury of wearing these awesome sneakers for years, but now that it's a trend with women to wear industry conferences, I'm eating that up and it's just the best.

Especially for, when you're walking long distances in Vegas and things like that, it's really nice to have those. So that's a must-have on my pack list. And the last thing would just be like my assortment of wellness things. I have a whole like, call me Walgreens rage or pharmacy rage because I'm always packing all of the things.

I have at any given time, all the different drugs that I would need. Tylenol, things like that. And then I have, all the eye patches, all of the creams. And I'm packing them in smaller capacities, right? I'm not packing my entire life, but I have my call it my personal dop kit that always has these things in it.

But the under-eye patches, the wellness things. Anything to do with foot readiness in the morning. I'm also packing that too. So yeah, I've got a lot of fun things up my sleeves and I'll put it, I'll probably link it on the packing list so people can see all the different things that I don't forget to pack at events.

Paulina: Love that. When I think about mine, Rach, I'm actually inspired by one that I think you started a couple years ago. But it's more of a tech thing. Didn't you get like an extension to your laptop where it has multiple screens, like it like fans out? We should link to what that is too, because that's like huge in terms of giving yourself multiple screens to work off of instead of just the one screen on your laptop.

I need to get one of those. So I'm going to add that to my purchase list for my next travel. When it comes to my best practices for packing, I used to be the person who would throw as many outfits and as many pairs of shoes into a suitcase as possible. And I think, as I've become more mature in how I approach the day-to-day of every event, I've become a little bit more Type A. I don't use a Post-it note, but I do use the note in my iPhone and I make a day-to-day list of everything that I intend to wear. There's this sort of conference day outfit, and then if there's an opportunity to change or freshen up, there's the conference PM outfit.

And for me, this works really, really well. It helps me manage, not packing in excess. That's been something that I think has been a huge benefit. Someone gave me a piece of advice, if you're going on a really long trip always pack for at least two weeks. If it's beyond, if the trip's longer than two weeks, pack for two weeks in your carry-on.

How travel has been recently diverted flights, canceled flights, delayed flights. I think you can only benefit yourself if you always have at least one comfy outfit in your carry-on and one professional outfit. So that's the best practice for me. When it comes to wellness, I'm someone who is like all about hydration.

I pack one to two extra water bottles. I've got the hydration spray for my face. Rach mentioned we're always in Vegas, right? And it is dry. I come from a very humid climate in the mid Atlantic. So it's a big difference in terms of my wellness. So always bringing the face spray, always having water hydration.

Rage is always notorious for having hydration packets. Those are a great best practice to keep with you. Because staying hydrated is really how you're staying awake and moving through the days of your event. From a tech perspective, I am notorious for having my phone die. So I am all about the portable chargers for my phone.

Always try to bring an extra laptop charger. Every device I own for whatever reason. It's probably because I'm always on all devices at all times. So they're always on low battery. So having that extra juice is always to be a huge benefit for me. But yeah, it'd be fun for us to link our packing best practices. Maybe some of our example lists from the past events we've done over the last few years for you all to see and take inspiration from.

Rachel: I agree. I think if you break it down into clothes, wellness, and technology, like I feel like you're going to be set up correctly.

Paulina: Yeah. Agreed. Keep it tight. Keep it right. Awesome. We hope you all enjoyed this week's quick episode on unpacking how to pack for your events. As always, if you would like to be on the podcast, have a topic for us or have a recommendation, DM us on LinkedIn, on Instagram, or send us an email at greatevents@cvent.com until next time. Thank you.