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
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
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!