At a two-day Guerrilla Selling seminar in Nairobi, Kenya, I was recently reminded of the importance of being self-sufficient on the road.  Africa is like a whole other country, and it’s hard to find stuff, especially the good stuff.  The same could be said of Lincoln, Nebraska.  Professional speakers take responsibility for their own comfort and equipment, and are always prepared for disaster.

Your Professional Speaker’s Gig bag should contain:

  1. Your laptop
  2. An extra, dedicated computer power supply that stays in your bag.  I recommend the universal Targus AC70U for PCs, $31.99; for Macs, $89.00 at the Apple Store. Leave the factory version at your desk and you’ll never make the mistake of forgetting to pack it. And you won’t be heartbroken when you leave the replacement behind at a venue. 
  3. Your own PowerPoint controller. (I highly recommend the Logitech Professional Presenter R800, which includes a green laser and a cool timer that vibrates to tell you when to shut the hell up).
  4. A small portable mouse (a cheap one works fine; you won’t be using it that much.)
  5. Copy of your room setup instructions. The hotel will have lost the one you sent ahead. Trust this. And carry a version in Spanish, for when you’re working in Latin American markets like Miami or LA.
  6. Copy of your standard introduction, printed in 24-point type. Your introducer will have forgotten the one you sent ahead.
  7. Color copy of your passport (and applicable visas)
  8. Color copy of your drivers’ license (enlarged 2x)
  9. Copy of your install files for Microsoft Office for when you’re sitting in a FedEx finishing your handouts at 2:00 AM and you need that obscure printer driver.
  10. A 32 gig USB flash drive for backing up your presentation, and another to sneakernet it between platforms. Better still, carry the backup in your pocket or purse when you travel (I wear mine on a lanyard ’round my neck). It will save your show when your laptop dies or is stolen out of the meeting room while you run to the rest room. (Yes, it did.)
  11. Portable travel alarm clock with a display that you can read from across the stage.  Better still, a 14-inch diameter old-school clock from WalMart with hands that point and 12 numbers you can recognize. Use a push-pin to hang it on the back wall.  If you pay more than $10.00, it was too much, because you will inevitably leave it behind at a venue.  
  12. Portable digital thermometer, to settle the argument between the whining guest who insists it’s too cold and the hotel engineer.
  13. Fully loaded iPod/iPhone, with royalty-free music that you can play during walk-in and breaks, plus news podcasts, a movie, and a favorite TV show or two for the plane ride.   Check out The Music Bakery for affordable tracks that won’t get you busted by BMI.  ShutterStock offers a similar royalty-free subscription.
  14. Spare iPod/iPhone USB cord, AC charger, and cigarette-lighter adapter.
  15. A spare pair of earbuds so you can listen on the plane.  (Better still, see #17.)
  16. A stereo 1/8″ (mini) phone to 2 mono 1/4″ phone send return (insert) cable so you can plug the laptop or phone directly into the sound system (Google it, or write it down and ask the geek at BestBuy while you’re buying the thermometer).
  17. Noise canceling headphones.  I highly recommend the Bose Quiet Comfort 35’s ($349.95).  They make on-board movies sound great, and are a great comfort when seated next to the inconsolable baby.  A pack of Mack’s Pillow Soft Silicone earplugs ($5.79 at Walgreens) are a distant second choice.
  18. Three or four spare Duracell AAA, and AA batteries to power your, mic, remote and headphones.  The coppertops really do last longer.
  19. Package of 2 fresh Duracell 12 Volt batteries (the square ones) for the wireless microphones.  The ones that AV company buys in bulk are carefully engineered to go dead in the middle of your gig. ALWAYS replace them before you go on, weather they need it or not.
  20. Package of Halls Honey Lemon Cough Drops (the Cherry ones make your tongue look weird).
  21. Pack of chewable Pepto Bismo tablets for after the taco bar fiesta buffet.
  22. Package of Imodium AD (for when the Pepto Bismo doesn’t help).
  23. Melatonin tablets. The absolute best herbal remedy for jet lag. Take 20 mg an hour or two before sleepy time. I find they work best when taken with a double Gin-and-Tonic.
  24. Blindfold for airplane sleepy time. (Also handy for terminating unwanted conversations with annoying seatmates.) You can buy them in most airport shops, but they hand them out free in first class, so ask the cabin crew for one on your next long haul.
  25. A crisp $100 bill (series 2000 or later; some overseas hotels won’t accept the older ones; too easy to counterfeit.) Hide it in a zippered pocket of your computer bag. Your old buddy Ben can bail you out of a lot of trouble, just about anywhere.
  26. Five $20’s for tipping the hotel housemen, when, at midnight, you have to ask them to reset the whole ballroom classroom style.
  27. (Bonus) And if you use a Mac, you’ll need an extra Mini Display Port-to-VGA or Thunderbolt-to-VGA video adapter ($19 online or $39 at the Apple store).  You’ll forget to pack yours and the hotel won’t have one.  
  28. (Bonus-bonus) Most digital projectors and TV’s now accept input from an HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) cable. Carry your own 25-footer for one-click compatibility.

All this, and more, fits neatly into my computer backpack. Not only has it saved my skin, but it’s saved the day for more than my share of other speakers as well.

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