In my previous post I mentioned a packing list. I use this list prior to heading out to speaking engagements. I thought others might find it useful so I thought I’d put it here, along with a short explanation when needed.
Laptop – Pretty obvious
Backup Laptop – I bring my netbook along, as a backup computer. Just in case the main one dies.
External Hard Drive – I also bring along an external drive that has all my presentations, necessary ISOs, etc. This way in a real crisis I can borrow another presenters laptop to do my presentation. This actually happened at a SQL Saturday, only it was my laptop that got borrowed when a fellow presenters laptop failed to boot. Fortunately he had everything on a thumb drive.
Extension cord – I have been in a few venues where the power plug was almost out of reach. I keep a 12 foot extension cord in my bag that has three, three prong outlets on it. Even if you don’t need it for your presentation, it’s quite handy in the hotel room, and especially so if you’re flying. Often waiting areas have few outlets, most of which are usually occupied. I’ve never been turned down though when I whip out my handy extension cord and ask if we could both plug into it.
CAT-5 Network Cable – I keep a 12 foot network cable in my backpack, I’ve been to several places that had no wireless but did have wired. Heck, even going to business meetings it’s come in hand on more than one occasion. Also great in the hotel room as you can run the cord a distance and relax in bed.
Spare Mouse – Normally I like a trackball, but it’s easy enough to forget, so I keep a small travel mouse in my bag all the time.
Presenters Mouse – Please, please, please my fellow presenters! If you are going to present and have more than 3 slides in your presentation invest in a decent presenters mouse. It’s very distracting when you stand by the screen, then have to keep running back to your laptop to advance to the next slide.
Zune – True, I don’t use it during the presentation, but I keep it handy when I travel.
Kindle – Again, not used during presentation, but a great way to make the trip go by quickly, or to look up an answer to something you’ve been asked.
Cell phone – OK, I admit it, I once went to a week long convention and left my cell phone sitting in my desk charger at home.
USB Cords – Check to make sure you have all the cords you need for all the toys you are bringing. You will need at least one for each device, so you can interface with and also recharge.
Powered USB Hub – If you have more than a few devices, you might also wish to bring along a powered USB hub. Even if you don’t plug it into your laptop you can still use it to charge all your stuff.
Spare Batteries – I use rechargeable batteries in everything, a great investment and good for the environment. Before I leave I swap out batteries in everything I’m bringing for fresh ones, and make sure to bring enough spares to resupply everything at least once. If you are going to be gone a long time, you might also bring along your battery charger.
USB Thumbdrives – I keep a few thumbdrives in my bag, usually ones I picked up at some conference for free. I’m often asked by attendees if they can get a copy of my demos/slides, but then they don’t have a drive. Sometimes I even have the foresight to put the material on them in advance.
Business Cards – I bring along a big stack of business cards, they are easy to hand out (put a pile by the door and near or on the podium). Let’s face it, while business may not be your main motivation for being there, you wouldn’t want to turn any potential new customers down either.
Pen/paper – Keep a small notepad and paper handy, it’s great for writing down contact info, or “to do’s” that arise during an event.
Mouse pad – Sometimes your mouse just won’t work where you need it to, maybe the surface is too reflective, or not reflective enough. A spare mouse pad fixes that quickly.
Laptop cable locks – If I’m going to a multi-day conference, I might only need my big laptop for the day of my presentation. For the other days my netbook will do fine. To make sure my big laptop is safe in my room I use a cable lock to secure it to my desk or some other fixed object. Also handy if you want to leave it in a speakers lounge for a while, sadly there have been incidents where laptops have gone missing.
Penlight – I keep an inexpensive penlight in my bag, sometimes I have to get down low to run my power cord / video cable, or perhaps dig deep in my bag for something. A little extra light never hurts.
Swiss Army Knife – I have a collection of Swiss Army Knives, but by far my favorite is the CyberTool. It’s made for working on computers, I’ve found it extremely useful. Warning, you can’t take this on the airplane with you thanks to TSA rules, but you can put it in your suitcase so you have it while you are at your destination.
Swag – If you plan to give away anything, don’t forget to bring it along.
Cash – Keep a small amount of money in your bag. Maybe $20 (or the equivalent in your local currency). Keep it in small bills, plus a few dollars in coins. One late Sunday night I was caught in an airport with no open restaurants. Naturally there’s been no meal service on the plane and I was hungry. Fortunately I had quite a few ones and some change on me, so I was able to grab some food from the vending machines. Not fine cuisine, but kept me alive and my stomach from rumbling. Also handy if you have a car and need to stay in a parking deck or feed a curbside parking meter.
Power Supplies – Don’t forget them.
Sometimes when I travel, if I’m going by my own vehicle and I’ll be there for several days, or if I’m helping to host an event, I’ll grab my “extras” bag. It’s a spare laptop bag, one of a bunch I’ve gotten from attending various conferences. In it I toss in things I might need. Among some of the contents are:
Extra CAT5 network cables; Extension VGA cables; A power bar with multiple outlets; small network hub; a variety of USB cables; Extra earbuds for my Zune;
Well there’s my list. Use it and adapt it as you see fit. Feel free to leave a comment with your own ideas of things in your laptop travel bag.