The Conference Travel Curse

June 12, 2012
By Rhea Drysdale in Online Marketing

Outspoken Media is cursed. At least that’s what it feels like when we travel and seem to have the worst luck. We’re thankful that no one has been hurt, but we’ve had thefts and more travel complications than I can count. At least we have incredible industry friends like you buying drinks when we finally made our destination. For that, we thank you and I hope that with the most recent string of incidents, we’ve broken the conference curse, because I personally can’t take much more of this.

Rather than crying or yelling about our most recent bad luck, I’ll simply state that our car rental was broken into by a pro and we had about $5,000 worth of property stolen including two laptops. It was interesting because there was no sign of forced entry or damage to the vehicle and we had nothing visible that would entice them. Then we found the key. A key that matched the make of our vehicle tossed in a stairwell close by.

In under one minute, the cop was able to wiggle the key until it opened the vehicle. Smart and terrifying that something so simple can/does work.

While I was furious and flustered, we took the violation one stride at a time, because we already knew what to do when a laptop is stolen and implemented most of the security measures ahead of time. This time around, our reaction looked something like this:

Try not to touch anything. Call the police. Survey the missing items. Notify those who can help (employees back at the office and my husband who could access iCloud to remote lock and track the Macbook). Provide cop with serial numbers, so laptops can be entered into the FBI database. Change passwords. Call the rental car company. Notify clients. Call car insurance. Call business insurance. Lose our minds a little. Write down all of the lessons. Develop a plan for an even more secure business.

While traveling home from SMX Advanced 2012, many of you were probably digesting the amazing sessions and lessons you picked up from the conference. We collected those notes, but not until after we’d brainstormed more preventative security measures for future travel.

In an effort to make your own travel more secure, here are several policies we’ve had in place to keep our data secure as well as new policies we came up with. Please share your thoughts in the comments below:


  • Password protection on login
  • Sign out of accounts every night
  • Do not store passwords in browser or another password manager that opens on load
  • Use a cross-platform password manager with admin access and different user levels
  • Save client passwords in a location separate from company passwords
  • Change all company passwords at regular intervals
  • Do not store passwords near desk space or stick to computers


  • When traveling, always get full coverage on car rentals
  • Make sure business insurance covers lost or stolen effects, including travel
  • Make sure personal car insurance covers personal effects if you’re the driver of the rental car


  • Automatic backup for all computers
  • Backup for the backups
  • iCloud setup to sync weekly for Mac properties

Client communication

  • If there is a security breach, contact clients immediately
  • Reset sensitive passwords immediately and suggest clients update theirs
  • If there are client-specific instructions, follow those
  • Destroy or return all client data at the end of a contract

Offensive measures

  • Setup a GPS tracker on PCs (Prey Project or LoJack)
  • Enable Find my Mac for all iPhone and Mac properties


  • Client passwords only accessible to exec team and client-specific account manager
  • Password protect all client passwords (preferably with two layers of login)

Conference attendance

  • Do not set your things down and walk away from them. Ever. Even a secure, locked and alarmed vehicle. Take them with you.
  • If you have to leave it somewhere, store it with a coworker or conference attendant in the speaker/press room if they are willing to watch it and they will be there the entire time
  • Always tell your team where you are going if you are leaving the main conference area
  • Keep your phone charged and on

Office security

  • Use a paper shredder for all sensitive materials, cards, checks, etc.
  • Store all sensitive files in a locked filing cabinet
  • Always lock the office door (preferably exterior and interior locks and an alarm system)

With that, I hope we can break the conference travel curse (knock on wood)! Did we miss anything? Let us know!

SMX photo credit: 7345287518 by chiropractic


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