I originally wrote this post before the 136th INTA annual meeting in Hong Kong (1st INTA annual meeting in Asia and my 8th INTA annual meeting). Folks who have been attending the INTA meetings will agree as to how awesome it can be and yet tiring, which requires careful planning. I thought of putting down a few of my insights that can be useful in planning your INTA trip.

  1. Registration: The question that every attendee has is, “should I just register for the INTA annual meeting or take an association membership as well?” The answer is to definitely take both. You will probably save a few dollars not becoming a member but trust me, the benefits you would derive being a member will outweigh the membership cost.
  2. Accommodation: Every year INTA reserves rooms at highly discounted prices at popular hotels for the attendees. It is highly recommended that you reserve your room through the INTA housing bureau once you complete your reservation. You will not be finding cheaper rates for these hotels anywhere else unless you have blocked before INTA opened up the meeting registration. You can also book affordable rooms using booking.com, kayak.com, hotels.com or agoda.com. My all time favourite is kayak.com which compares most of the online websites offering hotel bookings. 
  3. Flights & VISA: Many a time, INTA ties up with certain airlines to extend discount codes for special fares to the attendees. Kayak.com would also be a great place to check your flight options. Also, do not forget to check your visa requirements and apply for a visa as early as possible. INTA also issues an Invitation letter/Visa Letter that can be used while applying for your visa.
  4. Now that you are all set for the INTA annual meetings let me quickly share a few do’s and don’ts that I have learnt along the way.
    1. Do a little bit of research on the city you will be visiting. Every city has its fair share of good and bad things and you just need to ensure that you know the bad things before you land. You don’t want to be walking in a street late at night and get mugged or cheated by a conman and then later know that the area is known for such activities.
    2. Do carry extra boxes of your business cards; though you might think that you are a great person that everyone wanted your card and so you ran out of your business cards, at INTA it shows you are unprepared.
    3. Do carry some business cards and a suit in your hand luggage. Thousands of lawyers come in for the meeting and you would not be surprised if your main luggage is misplaced or lost (happens more often than you think – my personal one being in San Diego). Though you can buy a suit at a shop nearby and print a few business cards at the FedEx Office, you don’t want to take that risk. Also it would be advisable that you keep your e-version of your business card on the cloud for easy access.
    4. Do keep e-version of your travel documents on the cloud, just in case you need them.
    5. Do carry a mixture of cash, credit card and debit card for your expenses and do not forget to inform your bank that you are travelling so that they do not block your card by treating, you accessing your card in a foreign country as a suspicious transaction.
    6. Do make a list of emergency numbers into your phone book; both e-version and hard copy.
    7. Do check the destination country airport regulations on what could be bought in on your main luggage, hand luggage and other restrictions if any.
    8. Do check the destination country transport options, charges, fares, system and restaurant tipping rates etc to avoid embarrassing situations.
    9. Do carry a pair of comfortable walking shoes; you will be walking several miles/kilometres for your meetings depending on how you scheduled it. Ladies, this applies very much to you as well.  If you insist that you will be wearing high heels, then my advice is that you carry packs of band-aid bandages for your blisters you will develop probably on your second day.
    10. If you are a first-time attendee, do attend the First-Time Attendee Annual Meeting Orientation where experienced Annual Meeting attendees will share their experience about the many resources and opportunities for education and networking during the annual meeting. Many of the educational sessions are free and it is strongly advisable that you attend a few of the sessions of your interest.
    11. We all schedule meetings on our e-calendars several days in advance. While you schedule your meetings ensure that you choose local time at the destination so that your meetings are properly shown when accessed at the time of the meetings. Also keep a hard copy of your schedule just in case you need them.
    12. Do attend a few of the lunch, cocktail or dinner receptions; do not over do it by jumping from one reception to another every 10 minutes. You are here to meet new people and spend some time knowing them and knowing their business. Do not throw your business card around unless you are asked for or offered one of his/her card so you can return with your card. There are two pockets in a suit and the cards in one go back to his/her office and the other to the hotel room trash (fact!).
    13. INTA annual meeting is a great place for networking; but please spare the rest rooms. However enthusiastic you may be, rest rooms are not the place you want to be seen giving out business cards.
    14. Give sufficient time to travel between your meetings. Avoid scheduling back to back meetings. You tend to miss several meetings when you schedule them back to back. INTA publishes the floor plans as we get closer to the meeting. Use them and choose a meeting point. Meeting someone whom you have not seen before amongst 100’s of people in suit could be a nightmare.
    15. There will be a beautiful exhibit hall where several firms/businesses will showcase their products and services. (We are in booth 543 this year! – Drop in sometime) Some even organize raffle draws and games and luggage tags; you never know when you might get lucky. Keep some time in your schedule to visit the exhibit hall. This is also a great place to meet them and know about them and do not forget to pick up the freebies most of exhibitors give you.
    16. If you are a first time attendee it is advisable that you arrive a day early so that you can take a walk around getting to know the places where you have scheduled meetings figure out the travel time and travel options. This will also give you an opportunity to experience the city and give you enough time to see a few places of importance or tourist locations.

Last but not the least, let me leave you with the few words I received from a very elderly lawyer whom I met in Chicago during my first INTA meeting back in 2007. After sharing the dinner table with the gentleman and a few others it was time to exchange cards and while he carefully glanced each of our cards and he politely said

I’ve been attending the INTA meeting for decades, as early as when USTA  had just a few hundred members and let me share a little secret of attending INTA meetings; INTA is a must for trademark attorneys, whichever country you maybe from and INTA annual meeting should be on every trademark lawyer’s calendar and while you attend INTA meeting MAKE FRIENDS AND BUSINESS WILL FOLLOW.

Thankfully I got this advice when I attended my first INTA and have been following ever since then and I am glad that I made several wonderful friends across the globe.

I look forward to see everyone (that’s impossible); some of you in Boston!. Feel free to add your dos and don’ts and share your experience in the comment’s section below and I will try and incorporate them into the article.