This weekend I'm headed to the annual Virginia Dietetic Association conference. It's all dietetics, all the time for three days straight. If you've never been to a professional association conference before, you probably have some questions. I'm taking what I've learned and sharing it with you to make your packing, driving, and noshing needs as easy as possible for your professional conference.

  • Step 1: Schedule Your Sessions

You'll need to register for your meeting in advance and pay the fee. Most conferences have multiple 'tracks' of speaking sessions. For VDA you can chose between a clinical track or a food track. Many conferences also offer additional sessions for an extra fee. VDA is hosting a vermiculture and composting session the evening before the kick off!

  • Step 2: Figure Out Logistics

Virginia is a big state which translates into hours of driving. Do you need to fly? Are you taking a train? See if you can carpool with others attending the conference or split a room fee for the hotel. Also consider if the conference is in the hotel or if you need to commute. Map it out before you get to your conference to make it easy. If you really want to be on your game, look up the Twitter handles of the speakers and have them on hand. That way you can credit great information you tweet during the conference.

  • Step 3: Pack Your Bags

You read 'business casual' but seriously how does that translate? I made this guide last year after experiencing it for my self. It includes pictures and day to day guides for easy packing. Bottom line: pack separates that work together that limit the number of clothes and shoes that need to come with you. Pack all of your electronic and business needs as well. I tweet up a storm so I always bring my charger in my bag. You can also check out this Pinterest board I've started on conference packing.

  • Step 4: Pack Your Car

My drive is several hours to this conference so I know I need entertainment and snacks. Here are my essentials:

  1. Cell phone
  2. Car cellphone charger/ iPad charger
  3. Ipod (podcasts/music/RD exam guide)
  4. Audiobooks
  5. GPS
  6. Apples
  7. Dried Cherries
  8. Almonds 
  9. Camelback water bottle & seltzer
  10. Chapstick and hair ties (You just never know.)
  • Step 5: Network

Many conferences host mixers during one or more evenings . In my internship we always say "You never know who you'll be talking to. It might be your future boss". Dress to impress, think about what you're saying, and always have a business card. Mine are in the photo above. They're bright and vertical, just to give contacts something different.

  • Step 6: Take Notes

During the sessions of the conference, you'll be getting top notch news and information. Some of the keynote speakers provide my favorite sound bites. Be sure to bring a notebook and pen, or your electronics to take notes. Use these notes to blog, tweet, or translate to your practice.

Tweet with me during the Virginia Dietetic Association conference using #VDA.

Wishing you an amazing experience-

-Carlene Future RD

Dietitian Nutritionist. My husband Chris and I create food and beverage photos, videos, stopmotions and recipes. And they're really cool.