Packing for Conference Travel

Conference season is upon us again, and so is the time honored tradition of living from a suitcase! If you hit even a single conference, you know what a pain it can be to pack. But that pales in the face of managing your gear on the road. Lugging bags through the airport, waiting for checked bags and other indignities await as you journey to visit old and new friends.

So what do you do? Pack super light and buy things on the road? Well, it’s an option, provided you have the time to shop. Or pack a big bag, just tossing stuff in in case you might need it? Highly inefficient.

I’m convinced a single roll aboard is all that’s needed for most folks. Well, let me caveat that…for some gals and almost all guys, that is. Many ladies choose to travel with outfits which require the right shoes to match. Now, they *could* just skip the coordinating, but frankly, I say no. Better to take a bigger bag and look pulled together I think. 😉 Thus this is an 85% – 90% solution.

Today I packed for 11 days on the road:

  • 11 pairs of socks and underwear
  • 9 t-shirts
  • extra pair of jeans
  • 3 dress shirts
  • coat
  • extra pair of shoes
  • waterproof shell/jacket
  • 2 henleys
  • toiletry bag
  • emergency bag
  • laundry bag

All of that is in my roll aboard for my flight. It’s a tight fit, but it works. I could travel with less, I guess, but why? The weight of the bag is under the limits, the size easily fits the overhead bins and the bag isn’t even expanded.

My go-to choices for luggage are either Eagle Creek or Briggs & Riley. I have used both for 7+ years now, and while neither is cheap, I can confirm their lifetime warranties do in fact cover all manner of breakage.

For a week on the road, which is usually enough for most folks hitting a single conference, the standard roll aboard is plenty big enough…dare I say it, even the ladies with coordinated outfits may be able to make due! No intention of sounding sexist here, but if you’re a dude and can’t get by with something like this for a week on the road, you need to sit in front of the mirror and have a serious talk with yourself.

Were I traveling with a suit, I would opt for the Briggs & Riley in the video here because it has a folding divider to help keep garments secure and wrinkle free.

Loads of options out there beyond the one shown here, but the real key is the quality of your packing game. The cubes shown make a world of difference in helping with efficient packing. You won’t regret using them.

See you on the road gang!



Moving on – time for a new chapter in my personal book

At the last Pubcon, I was having a chat with a friend prior to going on stage. As these things often go, this conversation was wide ranging. We talked about missing Dana Lookadoo. We talked about Google’s latest moves. We talked about talking…specifically, speakers in the field across a wide range of topics. Then she said one of the most arresting things I’ve ever heard.

“You’re like the last person we have. The industry. You state things clearly and answer everything you can. We need you.” (I think there are others; give them a chance… 😉 )

Obviously this is a single person’s point of view, but it struck a chord with me. For a moment I was speechless. Thankfully, they carried on and saved me from the moment. I’m grateful for that, because I’m not sure I would have been able to collect my thoughts and respond.

See, the problem I had at that moment was simple. I knew something they didn’t. I couldn’t share it at the time, but I can now. And if you haven’t already guessed it, the news is pretty simple. I’m leaving Bing. In fact, I’m leaving Microsoft.

My last day, after almost 8 years with Microsoft, will be November 13th. I know, I know…ominous, right? Friday the 13th. But hey, its as good a day to wrap things up as any.

I’m grateful for my time with Microsoft, to the numerous (literally hundreds) of talented, creative and thoughtful people I’ve worked with and met. When the recruiter first reached out to me in 2007, I thought it was a scam. I LOL’d in my email back to the guy and challenged him. If he was real and this was a real opportunity, why not call me? Here’s my number. 18 minutes later my phone rang and opportunity knocked. The laugh was on me…LOL

From that moment until today, it’s been an amazing ride. Nothing prepares you for working inside a company like Microsoft. During my first interviews I was asked about doing SEO at scale, and how big was the biggest website I’d worked on prior to this? DOING the work at scale doesn’t dramatically change the actual work, so that was easy to walk through. But the second part, about the size of the website? That made me think. And my answer was impressive. “800,000+ pages”, I stated. The gent interviewing me nodded, made a note and we continued to talk. A few minutes later he explained that MSN, the site I’d be responsible for managing SEO for, had 168 channels worldwide, and, for example, the Autos channel in the US (at the time) was pushing close to 10,000,000 pages. And did I think I could handle that scale? “Well, ah…sure…”

My team, and the work we did was impressive. In fact, many don’t realize this, but the Bing Webmaster Tools we have today are direct descendants from the SEO tools my team built to manage SEO for MSN worldwide.

Speaking of Webmaster Tools, I’ll tell you right now that the tools are being cared for by a great team of folks. They’ll keep them up and running. Honestly, I feel pretty good about this because the guy who runs the team handling the work behind the scenes for WMTs was on my original team at MSN.

I can honestly say that my time at Microsoft has been amazing. From traveling the world to speak at conferences, to doing business in Brazil, impacting areas across South and Central America, to trips home to Canada to work with the teams there. From helping train the Kinect voice recognition system, to speaking to corporate leaders visiting Microsoft’s Executive Briefing Center, it’s been a wild ride. An e-ticket ride in the fast lane at times. Hop on the freeway, put the pedal to the metal and cruise.

Which brings me to why I’m leaving. This may sound like an over-simplification, but I feel like it’s time to get off the freeway for a while. The freeway is great for covering distance, but rarely does it follow a scenic path. For me it’s time to take the secondary roads. The roads that lead through the quaint towns, the roads that hug the coastline and enrich your soul.

I come from a family that ran a small business for 16 years. I grew up watching my father run our small motel, handling everything. Checking in guests, cleaning rooms, fixing the plumbing, mowing the grass, cleaning the pool, reroofing the building, moving furniture and so on. If it needed doing, he did it. And as I got older, I started working alongside him. It gave me a unique appreciation for how a small business runs; the reality of being on-the-ground.

Now it’s time for me to move from the corporate world back to the world of small business. I’ll still be in the industry, still reachable, but no longer a direct contact at Bing. I will miss the people at Microsoft and the company. They are doing great things (OK, I’m going to let my bias show here – they are doing some amazing things!).

For the moment, I’m leaving the obvious blank unfilled. I’ll pop up again soon to let folks know where I’m headed.

Not much more left to cover, other than to issue a broad thank you to everyone. I mean this. My career and my success has, at least partially, been built from your support. The amount of support is humbling; staggering when I consider it.

To everyone I’ve met, talked to, answered questions for and managed to champion a cause for, thank you. You guys rock! I’ll see you out there!