You know I love attending conferences, and the bigger the better most of the time. My previous post was all about my mistakes at this last conference. But another thought has struck me. And that is conference bag.
Let’s reflect on conference bag integrity. I am going to do some ratings as I give my thoughts on <gasp> the coveted conference bag!
We will use a star rating system, with 5 stars being EXCELLENT and 1 star being POOR!
At check-in one is generally handed a conference tote bag. In years past, the bag has been extremely nice. I have used previous bags all school year long as my school “satchel,” and have even brought close friends, teachers, assistants and more bags discarded or given away by others. These things used to be pretty coveted items, and were pretty darned guaranteed to be of a quality to last. Over the last few years, though, the bags’ quality has rapidly declined. Sign of a tough economy? I reckon so. For that reason my quality rating for conference bags 99% of time is now one star for POOR. Many of them are now vendor bags or recycling style bags. I have plenty enough thanks. And now that handouts are electronic and I tote a handheld device, I really don’t much need a bag.
Okay this may sound a bit oxymoronic, especially since I just basically dissed the bag itself above, but I am going to give the bag contents at most conferences a two star rating. Two? Yeah. The bags are filled with mostly fliers and ads for sponsors of the events.
Most of this no matter how brightly colored or uniquely shaped has no appeal for me. So these items usually get promptly thrown away. From the last conference tote bag (ISTE) I kept the Ipad ISTE cover, a NICE gift. I don’t have one yet, but want one and…well, I can hope. I also kept the cute pointy fingered smart pen too. So I give the contents a 2 star rating for the novelty of these two items.
I snapped this photo after getting to a seat and sifting through the contents of the bag. This delightful stack is what was thrown away. I must confess though that at this time I did not have the mobile phone conference app, so I opened up the thick spiral bound official conference guide, and ripped out the pages with maps. ALl I wanted at the time was the maps. I had access to my planner through my laptop which I carried around. Some of my twitter friends shared that Doug Johnson has a picture of his bag’s contents spread out for a photo. Go look at it here (and read the post too, of course.)
A printed guidebook–at a technology conference?
As a side note, and way off topic re: bags, let my ADD manifest for a sec:
My thoughts lead me to that big spiral bound planner that I tossed because I had planned initially to use the planner on the site with my laptop, and then to use the mobile phone app when I learned of its existence. I spoke of the pros and cons of it in the previous post, but want to add another suggestion to the app’s planner and map features. Each session that is indexed in the planner as a sponsored formal event (excluding customized personal additions if that ever happens) should contain a link to a walking map showing the attendee their location when it was accessed and the ultimate destination–a nice blue line to follow, and perhaps an option for voice over navigation too. SWEEEEET!! A likable app.
Final thoughts on conference bags:
Most of the conferences we attend these days have an electronic registration form. Why not add a section on there where attendees can opt out of the bag or certain types of materials in the bag?? It would certainly save a lot of paper and work for volunteers if they only stuffed bags for the number of people who wanted them. And as for bags, provide some options for the quality–there is a vast difference in a synthetic recycle style bag, a thin cotton sack, and a a heavy canvas bag that zips closed. Perhaps there could be an additional cost for those who WANT a nicer bag. If it’s the right color, style, material, and other perks, I certainly might opt to pay for it. But dont want it filled with junky fliers that I will throw out. So on the registration form, might I suggest a check box for the following:
- Option 1: Standard sponsor provided conference bag (all conference contents)
- Option 2: Paper sponsor provided bag (all conference contents)
- Option 3: Custom ordered sponsor bag (all conference contents)
- Option 4: Standard Sponsor provided conference bag (contents to be selected at a location TBA by attendee)
- Option 5: Paper sponsor provided bag (contents to be selected at a location TBA by attendee)
- Option 6: Custom ordered sponsor bag (contents to be selected at a location TBA by attendee)
- Option 7: No bag (with this option the attendee receives none of the standard contents provided)
BAG Contents (only available to attendees who check a bag type). PLease check what you want in your bag.
- ISTE Gift (i.e. laptop or tablet cover)
- Sponsor Trinkets (like the SMART ink pen pictured above)
- Conference Guide
- Exhibit Hall Guide
- Exhibit Hall Games
- Paper ads, fliers, specials, etc.
Of course this would slow down registration so I also suggest that those getting a customized bag be sent to a location in the exhibit hall or near registration to get the materials they want or indicated an interest in on their registration. Only those opting in for the “standard” conference bag package would pick up prepared bags at registration.