While packing for an upcoming conference, you think to yourself, “I know what I’ll do. I’ll bring my laptop!”

Now you’ve got problems.

Social Problems

When asked “What’s the most valuable aspect of attending conferences?”, nine out of ten hypothetical people said that it’s the people they get to see, meet, and learn from.

Let’s take these in order:

  1. See — you can’t see anybody when you’re head down in your computer! You interact with these folks online all the time, but you never get to chat IRL.1 Why are you emailing, tweeting, or God forbid facebooking them right now?

  2. Meet — you can’t meet anybody when you’re head down in your computer! I know, meeting people is tough and the glow of your laptop screen is warm and safe, but you have to put yourself out there if you ever want to meet new people. Now’s the time!

  3. Learn — you probably can learn from somebody when you’re head down in your computer, but they’ll never know it! Nothing says my-talk-must-not-be-interesting-at-all like a room full of people typing away on their laptops. Would you appreciate that if you were speaking?

Logistical Problems

The logistics of bringing a laptop can really cramp your style.

Don’t forget, you’ll need to bring along a power cord, perhaps a mouse, a spare battery2, and who-knows-what other accessories.

That’s a lot of stuff. You should probably wear a backpack or some kind of bag so you can haul everything.

or you could just roll like this

Also, remember not to leave anything behind after lunch or let that bag out of your site. Somebody might steal it. Blech!

Technical Problems

Let’s face it, conference wifi still sucks.3 Even if you get online you will probably experience plenty of frustrating timeouts or at best crappy latency.

You are unlikely to get any real work done and it will probably be so bad that you just leave your laptop in its bag and haul it around all day (see above).

What’s worse, power outlets are at a premium since so many people bring their laptops, so you become “that guy/gal” who squats the seats closest to an outlet. Unnecessary tension!


So you think you’ll need your laptop. I offer two suggestions:

  1. Take your smart phone — it will do 95% of what you want during a conference without as many drawbacks.
  2. Take your laptop, but leave it in your hotel room — if you do need to do some heavy lifting during the conference, sneak off during lunch or between events. Or better yet, wait until the end of the day to catch up.

Never say never

You may have good reasons why you need to bring your laptop to a conference — like if you’re speaking and need to use it for slides/demo purposes — but before you add it to your packing list, consider these things and ask yourself if it is a need or simply a want.

If it is just a want, try leaving it at home and see how things go. I think you’ll find that you get way more out of the conference sans laptop then you would with it.

I know that I have.

  1. I went from hating this acronym to using it all the time without noticing the transition.

  2. If you’re one of the fortunate souls whose laptop even has a removable battery.

  3. Surely there are companies focused on this need, but it is still a space that is ripe for innovation.