Conference Presentation Survival Kit

You have worked so hard on this. Crafted your proposal, triple spell-checked your submission, and submitted it to the conference gods along with a little prayer. Several very long weeks later you get the news; you have been selected as a presenter at the conference! OMG! It’s happened! Your big break! YOU are going to be giving a presentation to a room full of your colleagues, and probably some influential higher-ups that you would love to impress. How incredible! They want to hear your thoughts and opinions! As a grad student, this could be your moment in the sun, your first conference presentation.

So now the time has come to get on that plane and actually go give that killer presentation. Totally no pressure, as long as you don’t mess anything up, right? Being prepared can mean the difference in pulling off the presentation of the year, and looking like a sloppy mess.

Below are my top 15 items I always have on hand for a presentation.

15 essentials for your conference presentation survival kit

presentation

1.     Your presentation! On your computer, emailed to yourself, in your dropbox, and on a usb. You want to be prepared for everything and not having to scramble at the last minute due to a technology glitch will have you looking as cool as a cucumber. If you need some tips on presentation design check out these by Jesse Dee

usb

2.     A wearable usb drive.

Don’t leave your documents behind! A tiny flash drive can easily fall out of your bag, get left on the table in your hotel room, or get ruined at the bottom of your conference bag. Pick up one of these nifty wearable versions to keep your essentials on you at all times. And it’s a conversation starter, you will probably be the only one there with a bracelet USB!

plug

3.     A power strip (with your name / twitter handle on it) and extension cord.

Depending on how many items you need for your presentation, you might find yourself with a plug shortage. Or more likely the plugs are in an inconvenient spot in the room and your cables are too short. Don’t rely on the venue to provide a cable, bring your own extension cord and power strip. That way you know you have one in your room and you know it works.

adapters

4.     Adapters for phone, tablet, laptop.

If you have a presentation that includes a power point or prezi, you will likely be bringing your own technology to play these on even if the venue has a projector and screen for you. Its your job to make sure your technology will play nicely with theirs. Call the venue ahead of time and find out what sort of equipment they are providing, and how your computer will connect. Do you need a VGA cable? What about HDMI? Ethernet? Does your computer support these plugs or are you going to need an adapter? You don’t want to be scrambling last minute to find an electronics store in an unfamiliar city that may or may not have what you need.

networking cards

5.     Networking cards.

One of the biggest benefits of presenting at a conference is all the networking you are going to do. Those who attend your session are going to be excited to meet you and swap ideas. These connections are awesome! And you will almost certainly want to continue those connections after the conference is over. Upgrade to a personal networking card with your pertinent details on it.  LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and a link to your blog are all great things to include on your cards. Perhaps even a link to your presentation that attendees can download. You can get these printed at any copy store, FedEx Kinkos, or Staples; or get fancy and order snazzy ones from sites like Moo.com or Vistaprint.com. If you need some and it’s last minute, find a copy shop that does same day prints; but don’t go to your conference without these!

pens

6.     New pens

If you are like me then you are a bit of a pen snob. I have to have my preferred brand (and colors) and not having them kinda stresses me out (geeky I know). At a conference you might go thru a few of them so before you leave, be sure to pick up a new pack of your favorite pens. Keep the package sealed to avoid any unfortunate leakage problems (gel pens I’m looking at you!), and be sure there are at least 3 or 4, just in case you misplace one. You will be surprised at how much you will be writing while you are at conference.

highlighters

7.     Highlighters

In the same reasoning as the one above, make sure you pack a highlighter. Bonus if you find some that are dark enough to double as an eye catching color marker in case you need last minute signage.

sharpie

8.     A fine point sharpie

From labeling your equipment to writing on glossy business cards or session guides, you will be surprised how much you will use a sharpie. Basic black is always a good bet.

notebook

9.     Handy notebook

Nothing is more frustrating than trying to use the hotel provided pads of paper to take notes or swap information during a conference. They are not made for the amount of writing you are probably going to do, and there never seem to be enough pages. Also it fairly screams unprepared. Don’t let this happen to you! I am obsessed with these notebooks from Staples, but any half size notebook that fits easily in your bag and on your lap for writing notes in a session will work.

dry erase

10.  Dry erase markers.

You may have a white board in your room or your session my require attendees to use flip charts or make lists. Don’t get caught short handed and pick up a new pack of dry erase markers. Bonus these come in a variety of colors to a pack and are great for making last minute signage or suddenly taking your presentation low-tech if your technology doesn’t work.

tapescissors

11.  Tape and scissors.

Especially if you have a poster session, having a pair of scissors and a roll of tape can be a life saver in an emergency. It may be a fellow presenter who has an emergency but if you have these in your presentation box it will be you who saves the day. I love these little tape doughnuts that keep your tape clean and avoid it sticking to other things in your kit.

 

tacks

12.  Thumbtacks, paper clips, binder clips.

Raid your office supply cabinet and throw a few of each of these into your bag before you leave. Tablecloths blowing away, organizing your thoughts before your speech, or fixing a last minute breakdown on your visuals due to damage in transit are all quick fixes if you have a few of these in your bag. You would be surprised at what you can MacGyver out these little guys.

clicker

13.  Power point clicker with extra batteries.

If you have a presentation on powerpoint or prezi, you need one of these. No longer are you stuck behind the podium to click thru your slides. Having a clicker allows for greater freedom of movement and more natural interaction with your audience. Just be sure to practice with it before your conference especially if it is a new one. You will not want to be figuring out which button does what with a 100 pairs of eyes watching you. Be sure to bring extra batteries for it too just in case.

mifi

14.  A myfi portal.

Conference or hotel rooms may or may not have internet in the session rooms. If you are using a prezi or expect your audience will want to live tweet thru your presentation it would be a nice touch to bring your own wifi. Personal hotspots are inexpensive and can totally save your day if you find yourself somewhere without internet access.

 

box

15.  A box to keep all of the above items in.

Staying organized is the key to a good presentation. Your conference bag will already be full with items you need as an attendee and having your presentation materials and survival kit separate will come in handy when moving between sessions and getting ready the morning of. When I am on my campus I have my presentation kit stocked and ready to go in my rolling bag but that’s not so easy to bring with on a plane to a conference. For traveling look for a sturdy little box like these will keep all the little parts and pieces together in one place, and still fit in your conference bag.

 

So what do you think? Is there anything you keep in your bag that didn’t make the list? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

 

Image credits to: Target, Staples, PC Mag, USB Book

15 Must Haves for Your Next Conference

Its spring time and for many of us that means one thing; conference season.

Whether you are presenting, job searching, or attending for professional development there are a few essentials you will not want to forget to pack. Here is my list of top 15 must haves for a successful conference experience.

tote

  1. A great conference bag. Think Pockets!
    It seems like a no-brainer but the first thing you want to think about is how you are going to lug around all the cool stuff below. You want a bag that is big enough to hold the essentials but small enough that you won’t exhaust yourself by carrying it around all day. Guys, you can usually get away with a backpack but for the ladies (or really anyone wanting to put out a more professional vibe), you will probably want to score a tote or messenger bag. The goal here is to find one with pockets, the more the better. You don’t want to have to fumble for a pen or your hotel key in the mess at the bottom of your bag. A pocket along the outside to hold the items you need access to quickly, and compartments on the inside to secure your laptop, tablet, notebook and incidentals. Honestly this is a bag that you will use over and over for trips, conferences, and presentations so it okay to splurge a little. This bag is an investment.networking cards
  2. Networking Cards.
    One of the biggest benefits of attending a conference is all the networking you are going to do. You are going to meet people in your field from around the world and you are going to want to connect with them after the conference is over. The days of swapping your company provided business cards are over. Upgrade to a personal networking card with your pertinent details on it.  LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and a link to your blog are all great things to include on your cards. Bonus that these things will not change as you change positions and companies keeping your card more relevant longer. You can get these printed at any copy store, FedEx Kinkos, or Staples; or get fancy and order snazzy ones from sites like Moo.com or Vistaprint.com. If you need some and it’s last minute, find a copy shop that does same day prints; but don’t go to your conference without these!plug
  3. Power Strip & Extension Cord.
    Want to know the fastest way to make new friends? Whip out your travel power strip in an afternoon session when everyone else’s phones and tablets are dying, and watch people’s eyes light up like they just had a religious experience. Seriously nothing is worse than having your electronics die half way thru a full conference day and there isn’t an outlet in sight. Hotels often have limited plugs in the session rooms and the short passing time between workshops make it impossible to hang out in the bathroom long enough to give your phone a good charge. Be sure to label your strip and extension cord with your name or twitter handle in case you leave it somewhere it can find its way back to you.adapters
  4. The adapters for phone, tablet, laptopCables too.
    Along the same lines as the power strip, you do not want to end up at your conference or hotel and forget to have packed the charging cable for your tablet, or laptop. Ditto for any adapters you may need to be able to use your equipment at the conference or hotel. This is especially true if you are presenting and need to connect your laptop or tablet to the in house projector system. You don’t want to be scrambling last minute to find the local BestBuy because you forgot your mac adapter or VGA cable. Packing an HDMI cable will also be a lifesaver if your hotel tv doesn’t come with cable or you need to unwind in your room and want to watch some Netflix without having to squint at your tiny screen. The same thing goes for the ethernet cable in case your hotel doesn’t have free wifi.Pen
  5. LiveScribe Pen.
    Another great investment for conference that can be used after the conference. The livescribe pen records video and writing strokes and captures everything you write and everything you here. These notes can later be uploaded to Evernote or your computer for future reference. Don’t worry about missing a word of the presentation again with this little gadget. It also works as a regular ink pen. Be sure to ask your presenter before recording them (its just good manners) but I promise you are going to love this new bit of technology.notebookpens
  6. New Pens & Notebook.
    Nothing is more frustrating than trying to use the hotel provided pen and pads of paper to take notes during a conference. They are not made for the amount of writing you are probably going to do, and there never seem to be enough pages. Also it fairly screams unprepared. Don’t let this happen to you! Before you leave, be sure to pick up a new pack of your favorite pens. Keep the package sealed to avoid any unfortunate leakage problems (gel pens I’m looking at you!), and be sure there are at least 3 or 4, just in case you misplace one. I am obsessed with these notebooks from Staples, but any half size notebook that fits easily in your bag and on your lap for writing notes in a session will work.coffee
  7. Starbucks Via. And your travel mug.
    Few things are more dear to me than my morning coffee. And nothing is worse than the line ride at the hotel Starbucks during a convention. Imagine waiting in a 40+ person line just to get your caffeine fix. Really that’s just more than I can handle first thing in the morning. But one look at the in-room coffee pot is enough to dash those hopes for a quick cup of joe. What’s a girl to do? Pick up a box of instant coffee single serving packs. I am a big fan of the Starbucks Via packs, but you can check to see if your brand has single servings at your local grocer. Then swing by the hotel bar (where there is usually no competition at this time of day) and ask to fill your travel mug with hot water. Pop in your instant coffee and voila! All the coffee with none of the wait. You could even swing by the coffee line and use their sugar and milk bar to spruce up your drink if you need, but usually the bartenders will have that on hand as well. Then you can bypass that long line of bleary-eyed conference goers and snag a primo seat in that first morning session and enjoy your coffee before you start the day.shoessweater
  8. Comfy flat shoes & a thin sweater.
    Its one thing to dress for the weather in the city your conference is in, but most people don’t think about their comfort once they are inside the session halls. Most hotels and conference centers have really powerful air conditioning systems, and after sitting in one spot for up to an hour, attendees can find themselves freezing and stuck for the whole day. Be sure to bring along a thin sweater that you can easily take on and off throughout the that won’t be bulky and awkward to carry. Ditto for a cute pair of flats that you can stash in your bag (remember those pockets!) Those killer heals you bought to match your power suit can be a special kind of torture after trekking from session to session all afternoon. Give your pigs a break in between by keeping a change of shoes in your bag. Simple black ballet flats are perfect for this. and can match just about any outfit. Trust me your toes will thank you!wristlettie
  9. A wearable card holder/wallet/wristlet.
    If you are already lugging around your conference tote the last thing you want to add is your bulky purse. Especially if you are in an unfamiliar city walking streets where you may not know exactly where you are going. Forgoing your normal bag in favor of a slim clutch or wallet combo will not only take up less space in your bag but keep you from becoming a victim of a purse snatching in an unfamiliar city. Guys there are even ties that store your hotel key and debit cards inside so that you can avoid carrying a wallet. Better safe than sorry!tide
  10. A shout/tide pen
    Few things are worse then meeting new colleagues or attending an interview only to walk out and notice the whole time you had a stain on your shirt. Oh no! Stash one of these in your bag for a quick fix for lunch spills or coffee snafu’s.sanitizer
  11. Hand Sanitizer
    You will be shaking a lot of hands, and meeting a lot of people. Don’t bring home a cold with you! Slip a travel size hand sanitizer in your bag so you can refresh throughout the day.tylenol mintssnacks
  12. Aspirin, a water bottle, & small snacks. Oh and mints!
    Hotel lobby shops are crazy expensive. Don’t get stuck paying $5 for a two-pack of Tylenol, pack a travel size bottle before you leave home. The same goes for small snacks. Pick up some granola bars at the local drug store before you get to the conference site. Not only will the snacks be cheaper but they will usually have a better selection to choose from. Be sure to also score a couple of packs of mints  (or gum) to banish that after lunch breath. You’ll be talking to new people all day long and you don’t want to be remembered as the person with the stinky breath. Bonus that offering a mint or stick of gum to the person sitting next to you in a session is a great way to break the ice and meet a new friend!toiletries
  13. Travel bottles of soaps, contact lens solution, toothpaste, etc
    While we are in the travel section, pick up some mini’s of the shampoos, soaps, contact solution, etc. Pack them before you leave but then leave them when its time to fly back. This will free up valuable luggage space for those  conference freebees, and souvenirs for loved ones at home. Plus you won’t have to worry about them leaking on your way home. Pack them in a ziplock baggie for the ride up to thwart leakage as well.Umbrella
  14. Small Umbrella.
    Its a good idea to also grab a cheap-o umbrella for your conference bag as well. Stores usually stock tiny purse sized ones in the travel section, and its another one of those use it and leave it items that will come in handy.elevator
  15. Your 30 second elevator pitch, (especially if you are job searching)
    You are going to an event where one of the main activities is going to be to meet people. Get comfortable with your spiel; who you are, where you work and what you do. You will be telling it over and over for days in a row. Especially if you are job searching; this is your only chance to make a great first impression. Remember you are selling yourself! If you don’t sound like you believe in you, why should anyone else? Practice until you feel confident and feel free to ask a friend or family member for constructive criticism. This is your moment to shine, don’t let it get away from you!

Also be sure to let your credit and debit card companies know you will be traveling. Nothing is worse than getting declined when you are on the road.

So that’s it! My top 15 must haves for your next conference. Did we miss one of your recommended items? Tell us in the comments below.

What’s in your conference bag?