Speakers: Keep An Emergency Tool Kit With You and Communicate About your AV Needs

This is the second in a series of posts I am writing on technical speaking advice. This post focuses on what you should bring with you when you are speaking and what information you should give your provider.

Bring a Tool Kit

I recommend you keep an emergency tool kit of items when you are speaking.  Things can go wrong, cables can break, presentations might not arrive via email.  If you are speaking at a hotel, even if the hotel has what you need, by the time the item is found and set up it will probably be too late.

Get yourself a bag, put it with the stuff you always bring when you speak, and fill it with the following items:

  1. USB drive – you never know when you will need to transfer materials from one computer to another. Not a wimpy USB drive with a couple of megs either.  At least a gigabyte or two (or larger than the largest presentation you have ever created.)
  2. CD or DVD – just in case the USB drive doesn’t work. Again, large enough to hold a  large presentation.
  3. Long network cable – 25 to 50 feet.  If you need to connect to the Internet and the only port is a looong way away (and no wireless is available) you will be happy for a long cable.
    1. Bring a short cable too. This way if you have access to a closer port you don’t have to go through the trouble of uncoiling and coiling a long cable.
  4. If you have a smart phone (and it is able) set it up to tether with your laptop so you can access the Internet easily if you need to. Bring whatever cables you need and test it ahead of time.
  5. Connector for the LCD projector.  Normally this means a VGA cable. Make sure it is at least 6 feet.  If you like to have your laptop on the floor (because you move around a lot) get a longer one.
    1. If you use a Mac, it is absolutely crucial you bring your VGA adapter. It is extremely likely the site, even a professional CLE site, will not have an adapter for you.
    2. Warn the provider if you are bringing a Mac. I know, I know, Macs are wonderful.  But no one expects you to bring one.
  6. Your computer – most organizations will have one laptop they prefer you use (it is easier and less disruptive to use one computer as opposed to changing throughout the seminar) but it never hurts to have a backup.
    1. Always bring your computer if you have special programs on it or are showing video.
    2. You also might consider putting your presentation online for easy access. Slideshare works well.
  7. Wireless mouse – this is the most common item faculty ask for the day of the seminar.  Please don’t assume a wireless mouse will be available.  Fortunately in most cases we have been able to provide one, but if more than one session at a time is going on and someone else asked first, you will probably be out of luck.
  8. Laser pointer – first be aware that a laser pointer might not be usable in a presentation that is being sent out or recorded.  This is because the dot will only show up on the screen, it won’t show up on the image being sent out.  Always ask whether a laser pointer is permissible.
    1. A lot of providers might not think about this issue ahead of time if they are new to video recording or sending live programs over the Internet.  I remember early on after I created Simulcasts not thinking about this issue and being surprised one day.
    2. It is better to use the mouse arrow itself as the pointer.
  9. If you speak a lot and frequently need to use your own laptop, consider purchasing a switch box.  A lot of organizations don’t have one and with a switch box you will be easily able to switch back and forth between computers with the press of a button, alleviating disruption.
    1. Note to providers, if you don’t have a switch box consider purchasing one. They aren’t expensive.
  10. Always bring a backup copy of your presentation.  Don’t assume you will have access to email.
  11. Always bring a print out of your presentation. Don’t assume you will have access to a printer.

Don’t Speak Often? Bring These Items

Even if you don’t speak a lot, you should bring the following items:

  1. USB drive
  2. Adapter (if you use a Mac)
  3. Computer (as a backup)
  4. Wireless mouse (if you use one)
  5. Backup copy of your presentation (put it on the USB drive and on your laptop)
  6. Print out of your presentation

Communicate With Your Provider

My Assistant and I always ask faculty what they will need.  We tell faculty we will provide a podium, microphone and LCD projector.  We specifically ask about other items with a chart we send via email or ask during conference calls.

Unfortunately it is extremely common to be told, “nothing special” or to receive no response at all, only to have faculty walk in the day of the seminar asking for special items.  PBI has an amazing Media Technology staff which will bend over backwards to assist me and my faculty, but sometimes things just aren’t available because we don’t have them or they are being used for another seminar.  Don’t make your provider scramble the day of a seminar, the provider won’t appreciate it, but more importantly the item you request may not be available.

Even if the provider doesn’t ask make a point of asking what the set up will be and find out if any special items you need will be available.  If you don’t ask, especially at a hotel or with a small provider, chances are what you need won’t be at the seminar.

Also be aware that renting technology at hotels is extremely expensive.  LCD projectors frequently cost $400-$700.  Wireless lavalieres can be expensive, so if you don’t plan on walking around, don’t ask for one. Internet connections, if the hotel doesn’t have wireless, can be cost prohibitive, easily $1,000.  Make sure you actually need and will use the item(s) for which you ask.


You can assist your provider by letting her know what you need, making sure you have some backup items with you, and making certain you really need whatever you ask for.  And no matter what, be sure you always bring a back up of your presentation and a print out of your presentation.

The key to a successful presentation, in every case, is to communicate with your provider. Make sure you do so throughout the planning process and up to the day of the seminar.  Your provider will thank you and consider you a pleasant individual with whom to work, a good way to get invited back.  You yourself will be certain whatever you need to give your presentation is available when you arrive; which in turn will help you be more comfortable and less stressed when you are preparing to speak. A stressed presenter is normally not a good presenter. No one, not the provider and most certainly not the speaker needs to have a bad experience at a seminar due to stress or uncertainty.

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