This post details what is in my Presenter's Tech Travel Kit, a go-bag for frequent presenters who want to avoid presentation disasters. Be warned, this is a long post, so take your time. Links are provided for convenience to reference and identify items I actually have. This post was updated as I was preparing to go back out on the road and reevaluated my kit.
The Ultimate Technology Guide for Presenters
I present fairly frequently, and I work hard to deliver a good, valuable presentations to an audience that, in my opinion, has granted me the gift of their attention. To help ensure that, I started carrying around a bunch of equipment that meant I would never have a problem wherever I was presenting.
We've all had those moments, right? Where you get ready to present and find out that the internet isn't working. Or you forgot the Mac adapter. Or the projector is old and only displays part of your screen. You make due, but it's frustrating, as a presenter to have problems presenting. And it's worse for the audience.
I decided that, ultimately, I'm the one responsible for solving any technical problems that arise because of the devices I choose to travel with. I want to be prepared for any situation and everything must work.
The burden is on YOU to anticipate compatibility issues, and not on the organizers to accommodate you without any forewarning.
A few years ago, my company donated a new projector to the East Bay STC because I actually had that projector problem. I was trying out a new Android tablet, as a travel-presentation device—I thought, "Why cart a laptop around just for a presentation?"—and even though I had the right adapter with me, the projector was so old that it couldn't handle the tablet's resolution.
The point is that you never know what's going to happen. After that presentation disaster I decided I wasn't going to get caught in that situation again. I created a Tech Travel Kit. We all have a Travel Kit, but I also wanted a Tech Travel Kit that I could pick up and take with me anywhere. I wanted to always be ready.
Since that day, I haven't had another presentation disaster. In fact, I've saved the day for several other presenters over the last few years because my Tech Travel Kit has the adapter that they forgot to bring.
Until I started packing my kit, I didn't know the names of all the displays and would constantly call the Micro-HDMI a Mini-HDMI (same for USB). That's part of why I packed my kit in the first place. I didn't want to have people or techs out searching for what I needed at the last minute only to have them come back with the wrong thing.
Now I have a kit that matches all my devices and everything is configured for plug-and-play. There is literally almost no work and no trepidation (at least from a technology stand point) when it comes to presenting anywhere any time.
In my kit, I carry a variety of adapters, cables, power converters, and other miscellaneous things to support these devices and to make my travel as comfortable and easy as possible. While this may seem pretty straightforward, I've discovered that there can be some hiccups buried in there.
So here it is...
A full description of everything I have in my kit and why it's there. I've included links to the various products on Amazon, so you know which ones I have, if you're looking for something similar or if you just need a starting point from which to find the thing you need for your situation. Search is great, but sometimes it helps to have a starting point.
Note: I selected, purchased, and tested all of the products in this review myself after extensive research based on my specific requirements.
Let's start with presentation software
I use Google Slides for presenting and have for a very long time. First, they display beautifully on every device I have. Second, I can always access them because they exist in the cloud. Third, you can export them to Powerpoint or PDF for distribution.
Using Google Slides means I have my choice of devices to take with me. All of my devices have browsers, so no matter what device I have, I always have access to my slides as long as I also have internet access.
I've had a couple of times where Google Slides saved my presentation. Once, because of some bizarre technical glitch, I ended up presenting from my iPhone. The adapter and the iPhone worked with the venue's tech and saved the day.
Another time, the event hosts wanted us to copy our presentations to a computer they managed and had hooked up to the venue's system. I was able to log into a private browser on their machine and give my presentation. No issues with missing graphics or video files; my presentation was as perfect as if it had been on my own (comfortable) machine.
What about when you can't reach the cloud and you're using cloud software? There are various ways to solve that problem. Most venues have a free guest network for attendees and presenters to use. Alternately, I have a mobile device with a data plan that I can present from. My travel router and ad-hoc internet service provider give me even more options.
If you're looking for tips about creating good slides...
In TC Camp's Room 42 podcast, Dr. Traci Nathans-Kelly, the Associate Director for the Engineering Communications Program at Cornell University, College of Engineering, discussed her decades of research into optimizing slide design to crafting better technical presentations that not only support speakers in their live talks but have lasting archival value as well. Watch or listen to the episode ›
Next, let's talk devices
When you're traveling to present at an event, you need to support the purpose for travel (presenting) and the need to work remotely. At any given time, I travel with one or more of the following:
- Windows Surface Pro tablet
- Windows Laptop (Dell Lattitude E5250)
- MacBook Air (13" M1 2020)
- iPhone 8
- iPad Air (4th Gen) with Magic Keyboard
- And my co-presenter has a Google Pixel phone
- Other miscellaneous items described below.
Supporting this many devices and the variety of connectivity and power requirements can be a chore and can result in packing far more than you need, which can be both heavy and hard to keep track of.
When you create a kit, you should keep your devices, your needs, and your purpose in mind. With a good kit, you can grab it and go and feel confident you have everything you need.
If you're looking for tips about working while remote...
My recommendations for the best USB headsets for audio and web conferencing includes a discussion for travel-friendly options. Read the article ›
If you like to draw pictures when you're explaining complex ideas, read my discussion on the top ways to better whiteboard collaboration on remote conference calls. Several options will work when you're traveling as well. Read the article ›
Connecting to a projector (Adapters)
The projectors at most venues support VGA input. By 2018 I was starting to find venue projectors that supported both VGA and HDMI in, here and there. With the pandemic delay it's hard to anticipate what we'll find when we all start presenting again. I doubt most venues continued to upgrade their equipment when no one was attending large, in-person events.
For me, because I might travel with any combination of 6 devices capable of connecting to a projector, if I want to be able to connect to both VGA and HDMI. I need adapters for:
- Mini DisplayPort/Thunderbolt to VGA/HDMI (Windows Surface Tablet)
- HDMI to VGA/HDMI (Windows Laptop)
- USB-C to VGA/HDMI (Macbook Air, iPad, Google Pixel)
- Lightning to VGA/HDMI (iPhone)
I rarely use sound in my presentations, so I can get by with just the video adapter. However, if you find yourself in a situation where the projector is only VGA in and you have a need to project sound, you may also need a standard aux cable to plug into the sound system.
When choosing an adapter, make sure you buy the right one for the situation you'll be in. If you present often, at a variety of venues, it may be a good idea to have both Male-to-Male cables and Male-to-Female adapters. If you're concerned, my suggestion is to check with the organizers in advance, but if you want to be prepared, it's not a bad idea to have both adapters with you just in case.
While this all seems pretty straightforward, I've discovered that there can be some hiccups buried in there. For example, if you have a newer laptop with only USB-C ports, you might want to make sure your adapter includes a second USB-C port for power. This is especially important if your adapter takes your only power port. You don't want your laptop to run out of power or go to sleep during your presentation!
For modern PCs
- HDMI - HDMI: No need for an adapter, this is becoming standard on most projectors.
- HDMI - VGA
For Apple Air
- USB-C - HDMI, with power (double port)
For Windows Surface tablet, older MacBook Pro
For older PCs
- VGA - VGA: This is the old standard configuration provided by most venues; my PC does not have a VGA port.
Other Useful Tools
The rest of this list includes items that serve in a backup capacity or otherwise provide benefits to the presenter on the road that go beyond just hooking up slides to a projector.
For example, remember earlier when I said that I once tried to use a projector that was so old that it couldn't handle the my device's resolution? What about times when the WIFI is down and your presentation is on Google Slides? What do you do? How do you guarantee you can present successfully and still provide a full experience to your attendees?
Having backup options means you're never ill prepared. You can't imagine the relief at being able to come through with ease and professionalism in the face of technological adversity.
Additional cables for other devices
While we wait for the common charging port requirement to come into effect in 2024, we still need the various specific USB cables for power for different devices. I always have at least one cable per device so everything can be used or charged without waiting for another device to finish.
- USB-A to USB-C (iPad, Pixel, Kindle, Skyroam)
- USB-A to Lightning (iPhone)
- Power "Bricks" and cables (the ones that came with the laptops)
- USB-A to Micro-USB (audio devices like headsets, earbud chargers, Roku, and other accessories)
The cables in my kit are generally no longer than 1ft because I plug everything into the powered USB hub (see below). I tend toward preferring the braided ones because I have fixed too many plastic cords over the years with electrical tape.
Wall-powered USB hub
Hotel rooms never always have enough outlets (or enough outlets in convenient locations). Wall-powered USB hubs have saved my sanity more than once. With these, I can charge everything at once and they're small enough to fit in my kit.
The fast charging, wall-powered hub is far superior to the multi-device single cable. Multi-device cables split delivered power. Even if you leave everything plugged in over night, you can wake up with all your devices only partially or minimally charged.
Wall-powered hubs deliver full charge to each USB-A port and device attached thereto.
Plus, these are friendly devices: If you're in a public location and taking up one of the few plugs available, it provides slots for other people to join in the charging!
The Unidapt is special: It works for nearly every outlet type and cord worldwide. USB-powered devices are the same everywhere. Three of us tested it out in 2019, just before the pandemic, and because of its versatility, compactness, and utility, it has earned a permanent place in my tech travel kit.
On-the-go internet access
For me, this is an emergency item that doubles as reasonably-priced internet access for international travel: The Solis (formerly Skyroam).
Techcomm Geek Mom introduced me to this little technology toy. Occasionally, the last couple of years, the office has lost connectivity due to power outage or other network issue. (We all saw what happened to the AT&T network in Dallas in October 2018).
This little device came to the rescue. It got us up when service was down. That it also will give you access on any international network is a bonus. It's got a day-pass option, so you're not paying for service you're not using every day, which makes it very useful and highly flexible. That's what's earned it a permanent place in my kit.
We've been cable-TV free for a dozen years or more. We rotate our subscriptions (Hulu, Netflix, HBO, Disney+, Amazon Prime, etc) as interest grow and decline. It's a world you get used to pretty quickly. And when you travel, you remember why you did it in the first place. (Commercial TV is now impossible for me to watch.)
Want your favorite streaming services in your hotel room? Well, streaming stick to the rescue! These are super tiny devices ... I mean, look at these things:
These devices will plug into any HDMI device. Isn't that handy? Most hotel rooms have TVs with HDMI ports. I have run into one or two where they've disabled that port in favor of their pay-for programming. That's ok. I have a mini-projector in my kit (see below) that has an HDMI input. Problem solved!
I've tested all three, the Chromecast, the Roku and the FireStick. Most hotels have free Wifi but require you to authorize each device on the network through a browser. The Chromecast device doesn't have a browser, so you can't authenticate it on the network the usual way. The Amazon Fire Stick is the same way. The Roku has the ability to authenticate, but some places charge you per device.
In the end, I chose the Roku for it's simplicity, because it supports multiple streaming services, and ultimately because it can handle the authentication problem.
However, if you have a mini-wireless router comes in, the authentication (and the per-device charge) simply go away.
At one time, this was the best thing I'd gotten in a very long time. I travel with a lot of devices. Usually I have a laptop, a tablet, a phone, and a Kindle, at a minimum. If I'm traveling with someone else, they've got just as many devices.
Some hotels limit the number of devices that can connect to their network for free. Each one must be authorized separately, usually through a browser authentication method. When I went to STC Summit, I had 5 devices plus a Chromecast and the hotel had a 6 device limit -- and required you to reauthorize every day. What a lot of work that was for me!
In 2016, a friend introduced me to the HooToo, a wireless travel router. The HooToo is an amazing travel partner that makes things easy, inexpensive, and convenient.
You set it up it at home, prior to travel. You pre-configure your devices to join its network automatically. When you get to your destination, all you have to do is authorize the HooToo on the venue's WIFI network and, voilà, all your devices have internet access! It really doesn't get much easier.
Remember the issue with authorization and streaming sticks? If you configure your streaming stick to work with your travel router, that problem disappears. Once the HooToo is authorized on the venue's network, your streaming stick will automatically start working and you can stream video directly to the TV (or on the wall in your hotel room) rather than being limited to your tiny laptop screen or mobile device.
I picked the HooToo over the others that were available at the time primarily because it contains a battery so you don't have to be tethered to power to use it. I carried it with me and several of my devices all around a convention at one of the big Las Vegas hotels and never skipped a beat, not even deep in the bowels of the convention center when my cell phone had zero bars.
It's 2022 and the HooToo has aged and hit its end of life. Modern encryption methods aren't supported as a result.
I'm currently testing replacements, but none appear to have the built-in battery. I'm leaning toward one of the gli products because their documentation is online, it was easy to access, and I can dig deep before I purchase.
We'll see where I land. Stay tuned.
About the same time I donated a projector to the East Bay STC, I bought a mini one for my travel kit. Prices had gotten so reasonable for projectors, it seemed like a great idea. If I had my own projector in my kit, I would never be in a weird situation again.
I have the Fatork Mini Projector that I like very much. We used it to host outdoor movies this summer.
When you're looking for a projector, there are three things to care about:
- Available input ports
- Standard Camera Mount
- Lumens (brightness)
The Fatork supports standard HDMI in, which is perfect because we've already packed applicable device-HDMI adapters in our kit. (And the streaming sticks are all HDMI as well.)
You can Screen Cast to it from a mobile device over a WIFI network; However, (1) both your mobile device and the projector must be on the same network, (2) the network must be 5Ghz, and most importantly, (3) the WIFI network cannot be hidden. Luckily, it has a remote control, so moving around to select the letters and numbers that make up the WIFI password isn't too bad.
The Fatork came with a tripod and connects to it via a standard camera mount on the base. Industrial projectors have little feet that you can use to raise/lower the projector, the standard camera mount means I can put it on any other standard camera tripod, if I need more height. The Fatork also has built-in speakers (I used to have to carry an additional speaker for my old Brookstone Pocket Projector) and a dial on the side to help you get the focus nice and clear. Overall a solid projector even given the lack of support for hidden WIFI networks.
Once you've got a mini-projector in your kit, you find a million things you can do with it. I've run projections at my trade show booth at conferences. I've hosted outdoor movie nights. Who knows what will be next?
It all fits into my Tech Travel kit GoBag; I can just grab the bag and go. The bag is actually a cosmetic bag or toiletry bag by BUBM, not one of the electronics organizer bags. I've looked at a lot of those and none have ever had the pockets and slots for the things I actually carry and need. They're too ill-fitting in their general-purpose-ness.
But what do I care what the bag was originally for? It's my bag and I can do what I want with it. (I did something similar when I repurposed a tackle box as a first-aid/trauma kit). Toiletry bag or not, it's my Tech Travel Kit Go-Bag. And I'm ready to go.
Want to See it in Action?
At the 2016 STC Summit, I watched Game of Thrones on the wall of my hotel room with a Chromecast attached to my old Brookstone Pocket Projector, commercial free.
What's in Your Travel Kit?
Photographers trade stories about what they carry. It's so common that it's a well-known photographer blog topic to write up what's in their kit. Tell me what your favorite travel kit items are and what's in your kit. I'm always looking better solutions and more options and I'd love to hear from you.
For example, one friend has me nearly convinced to drop my grandfathered unlimited data plan for a small plan. I'll be looking into that option since I'm mostly on various wireless networks anyway. Another has me looking at pay-as-you-go world wireless access options. It's all very interesting but my requirements always, always, come first.
Want more articles like this?
We like to talk about the importance of requirements here at Single-Sourcing Solutions. If you want to read more articles about requirements gathering, how it's done, and a few examples of how to make sure you get the right tool for you, you should read these:
- How to find the best content management system (or any other tool) (How-To)
- The Best USB Headsets for Audio and Web Conferencing (Example and Review)
- Top 5 Ways to Better Whiteboard Collaboration on Remote Conference Calls (Example and Review)
Don't know which adapter you need?
Here's a little primer—complete with pictures—on the different adapters out there. You should be able to match yours up with it's official name making it a lot easier to find (and cheaper too).
Find your adapter
Windows laptops traditionally have a VGA port. I notice that the new laptops also have an HDMI port, which is very nice, as that's becoming a projector standard. Still, most venues have industrial projectors and those typically have VGA ports on them. You need to know this to connect your device to the projector (typically).
This is a VGA port:
The Microsoft Surface Pro and older MacBooks have a Thunderbolt ("Mini Display") port. Some have an HDMI port. Older ones have a DVI port, but these are rare enough now that I don't even carry DVI adapters anymore. My particularly MacBook only has the Thunderbolt port.
This is a Thunderbolt port:
Newer MacBooks have USB-C and no VGA or HDMI.
This is a USB-C port:
The ChromeBook, on the other hand, only has an HDMI port. Luckily, having both the HDMI and Thunderbolt adapters means that I have both the ChromeBook and the MacBook Pro (old and new) covered in my kit.
This is an HDMI port:
I have an iPhone 5s. The iPhone has a Lightning port. For the iPhone, Lightning provides power to the device, but it also will serve video output. Current iPads also have Lightning port. It can support audio in some if connecting to an input device that supports audio over that channel -- VGA is not one of those channels (no audio over VGA).
This is a Lightning port:
The 10" Android tablet has a Micro HDMI port. This is a Micro HDMI port (A great picture by hansleman.com that shows the differences between HDMI, Mini HDMI and Micro HDMI):
The 7" Android tablet only has an audio output jack (for headphones), so no video output from it. That's ok because it mainly serves as my eBook Reader.
None of the products in this review were provided without cost in exchange for a review; I purchased and tested them all myself, after selecting specific items through extensive research and based on my initial requirements.
Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.