How to Have a Better Conference Experience

This week I had the privilege of attending the 2019 Gartner Catalyst Conference in San Diego, CA. The venue is the Grand Hyatt, and the conference is a technology conference covering topics like advanced analytics, machine learning, information security, and many more. But the conference itself is not the topic of this blog. I want to share with you some of the things I do beyond the conference, that make the time away from home more enjoyable, and make for a better conference experience.

Ideas for a Better Conference Experience

#1. Take a Family Member

This one is obvious, but spend the extra money to bring a family member. For this conference, I brought my 12 year old daughter, Olivia. The result was that I have never had as much valuable 1:1 time with her, and it has been a blast. With four kids, I rarely can take my wife, but that’s a better option if you can.

#2. Spend Time Exploring

My daughter and I walked several miles a day this week looking at the architecture, finding great food spots, and discovering fun things to do. The exercise is as good for you as the learning experience.

#3. Eat Local

Eat at local restaurants, not national food chains. In San Diego we found a great grocery called Jimbo’s Naturally. Check out for more info. We picked up some healthy snacks and drinks for the hotel room. This will pull you out of your comfort zone, and give you something to talk about when you get home.

#4. Explore the Hotel

The Grand Hyatt was beautiful We found basketball courts on the roof, old pictures and art-work around the lobby, and great views of the city from some of the higher floors.

#5. Use Public Transportation

It wasn’t convenient for this trip because our hotel was so close to the airport, but navigating the local rail system is challenging and rewarding. Some cities are better than others. For instance, In Seattle, it cost $3 to get from the airport to my hotel. Uber was showing $30+.

#6. Find a Local Attraction

In San Diego we chose the USS Midway. We toured all of the decks that we could. You will make memories you and your family member won’t soon forget.

#7. Watch What You Eat

I used to indulge in all of the snacks and cokes of the conference, and then use my per diem on junk food and fast food. The last few conferences I’ve went on, I’ve avoided unhealthy snacks and sodas. I ate healthy options at the restaurants. I not only felt good throughout the whole trip, but I didn’t gain any weight either, which is a win-win.

#8. Bring Something Home

Bring something home for the rest of the family. Something as simple as t-shirts, chocolate, or souvenirs is all it takes to make my other kids feel like they were a part of my trip.

These are just a few of the things I’ve done to have a better experience during conferences. If you aren’t doing one or any of these, I recommend trying them out. If you have other ideas, I’d love to hear them. Please submit your ideas in the comments below.