This post details what is in my Presenter's Tech Travel Kit. As a frequent presenter, I want to be prepared for any situation and I want it to always work. Ultimately, I'm responsible for solving any technical problems for presenters that arise because of the device I choose to travel with. It's a long post, so take your time. Links are provided for convenience to reference and identify items I actually have.
The Ultimate Technology Guide for Presenters
I present fairly frequently and 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.
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.
Here it is, a full description of everything in my kit and why it's there.I've included links to the various products on Amazon, so you know which one 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. Things can get pretty complicated until you've got it all worked out to meet your personal needs.
At any given time, I might travel with one or more of the following:
- Windows Surface Pro tablet
- Windows laptop (2012 version that has been upgraded to run Windows 10)
- MacBook Pro (2014)
- iPhone 5S
- Android tablets: an Asus MemoPad (10") and a Nexus 7 (7")
So that's 7 devices, 6 capable of connecting to a projector, and all five have different output requirements.
Most modern projectors support VGA and HDMI in. However, most venues can be guaranteed to have VGA, although in 2018 finding HDMI is starting to be very common. Always check with the organizers in advance if you can. If you want to be prepared, it's not a bad idea to have a VGA adapter with you just in case.
You need to be able to connect to VGA for sure, HDMI in a pinch.That means I potentially need:
- VGA to VGA
- Thunderbolt (Mini DisplayPort) to VGA/HDMI
- Lightning to VGA/HDMI
- HDMI to VGA/HDMI
- Micro HDMI to VGA/HDMI
- USB-C to VGA/HDMI
And a standard aux cable for sound. It all seems pretty straightforward, but I've discovered that there are some hitches buried in there. Trust me.
Over the last several years, I migrated to using Google Slides for presenting. First, it displays beautifully on every device I have. Using Google Slides means I have a choice of devices to carry with me. The one that always gets picked last for travel is the heavy windows laptop.
To get to them, you do need internet, but my phone has a data plan and is always connected, if I need it. Google Slides + mobile device with data plan is the perfect backup situation. If all else fails, technologically speaking, you can still present off your phone. I have been in this position and you can't imagine the relief at being able to come through with ease and professionalism in the face of technological adversity.
Essentials: Adapters and Cables
In my kit, I carry a variety of adapters, cables, power converters, and other miscellaneous things to make my travel as comfortable and easy as possible, and a user experience that meets my needs wherever I go.
I have adapters for each device that I own in my kit. When choosing an adapter make sure you buy the right one for the situation you'll be in. Usually you want Male-to-Male cables and Male-to-Female adapters.
If you have a newer laptop with only USB-C ports, you might want to make sure your adapter also has a 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 Windows PCs
- VGA - VGA: I don't carry anything for this as it's the standard configuration provided by most venues. Plus, I rarely carry the Windows laptop anyway.
For Newer Apple Laptops
For Windows Surface Pro
For Android Tablets
- Micro HDMI - HDMI - Here, too, I carry a cable instead of an adapter. I do have an HDMI-Micro HDMI adapter that I can fit onto the end of the HDMI cable, but have found that it doesn't always work. I'm not sure if it's the adapter or the demands of video or the power in the tablet, but either way, I don't want to depend on a questionable adapter. Instead I carry a very short Micro-HDMI to HDMI cable.
- Micro-HDMI - VGA Adapter - The adapter I have requires power to the adapter. I use a short USB to Micro-USB cable to supply power to the adapter. I have these cables in my kit anyway because Micro-USB is necessary to charge the tablets
I carry several other types of cables for varying situations. I carry specific USB cables for power to Android and Apple mobile devices, Micro-USB and Lightning respectively. I carry a USB power hub to plug those cables into.
- USB to Micro-USB - for charging and power
- USB to Lightning for charging the iPhone
- Micro-USB to audio jack
- USB Power "Plugs" - power, power, power
Other Useful Tools
USB-Extension/wall power adapter
My favorite USB-Wall power adapter is this one. Whenever I leave this at home I regret it. Hotel rooms don't always have enough outlets (or enough outlets in convenient locations). This handy accessory has saved my sanity more than once.
It plugs directly into the wall and has multiple USB ports so I can charge everything at once while I'm sleeping. It's small enough to fit in my kit. It's also a friendly device: 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!
Multi-Device USB Cable
It has 1 USB connector, 2 Micro-USB connectors, 1 Mini-USB connector, 1-Lightning connector, and one old-style iPod connector.
You can usually get these as a giveaway at an event. I got this one from a friend. If you want one right now, I found this colorful one on Amazon.
You want to watch these, I've noticed that the iPhone doesn't like to share. When it's plugged into this at the same time as another device, the iPhone usually won't charge at all. It's as if it was not plugged in.
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 an older Brookstone Pocket Projector and I love it. It projects nicely and quite brightly and has two different plug-styles included (US & UK) that attach to the plug base (this is a big plus for me).
The new ones have better lumens and are about the same price as the one I bought originally.
When you're looking for a projector, there are three things to care about:
- The available input ports
- Standard Camera Mount
For the Brookstone, it's standard HDMI in. Perfect. Already covered. This is the same as the Chromebook.
One key to this mini-projector is that it has a standard camera mount on the base. Why is this important? So you can put it on any tripod and give it the lift you need when projecting on a screen. Industrial projectors have little feet that you can use to raise/lower the projector, something the pocket projector doesn't have. With the standard camera mount, you can get any tripod and you can project anywhere, in any direction. That's a lot more convenient, if you ask me.
And a stand for it...
I have the Joby GorilliaPod.
I have a love-hate relationship with this tripod. I love that it's small enough to fit in my kit. I love that it has magnets in its feet, so I can hang it off a lamp in a hotel room, for example. The legs are flexible so I can adjust the angle any way I want. Want to project to the ceiling so you can lay back in bed and watch a video? Just mangle the legs until you get what you want. It's kind of nice. At the same time, it's small, so not really a good tripod for a lot of other purposes.
Once you've got a mini-projector in your kit, you find a million things you can do with it. I'm already trying to figure out how to run projections at my booth at a future conference or maybe on the floor in front of my booth or maybe something else. I'm still in the testing phase for these ideas, but I've got the tools ready for whatever I want to do.
The key to any tripod, of course, is the standard camera mount. With a standard mount, you can mount a project, a camera, or a webcam...just imagine the possibilities.
I didn't go out to put one of these in my kit but got one as a gift. My husband got sick of the big speakers I had all over the counter in the bathroom. He picked up this tiny thing that has surprisingly good sound output:
I listen to books and music when I'm doing other things like cleaning, packing, cooking, sorting through mail, etc. The Anker Portable USB speaker plugs right into the headphone jack of the Nexus 7, amplifying the sound just enough that I can wander out of the room and still hear the audio.
Additionally, it will plug into the audio out on the mini-projector. So, if I'm in a hotel room and want to turn the sound down and point it more directly at me, so as not to annoy my neighbors, I can. It's a handy addition to the travel kit that I can't imagine being without anymore.
This is maybe the best thing I've gotten in a very long time.
I travel with a lot of devices. Usually I have both tablets and my iPhone. If Paul travels with me, he's got his phone. Sometimes one or both of us has a laptop.
Some hotels limit the number of devices that can connect to their network for free. Each one must authorize 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. They also required you to reauthorize every day. What a lot of work that is for me!
The first day I did it their way. I wanted to compare against using my newest toy: Meet the HooToo Wireless Travel Router.
The HooToo is a wireless router. You configure it at home, prior to travel. You configure all of your devices to connect to it when they encounter it's network. When you get to your destination, simply plug the HooToo into the network - using the ethernet cable in the room (more in a second) - and then connect to the HooToo with one of your devices. Authorize the HooToo and now all your devices have internet access. One step authorization for all of your devices. It really doesn't get much easier.
Now, why plug the HooToo into the ethernet cable rather than the hotel wireless? Why not take advantage of the high-speed connection? You're wireless to the HooToo and then wired from there. Super speed at your fingertips. It almost can't be beat.
I started carrying a small ethernet cable too that I got free at a conference a long, long time ago again after having removed it from my kit. I hear that sometimes it's a useful thing to have at your fingertips in some situations.
I picked this HooToo rather than the TripMate version for a couple of reasons. 1) It's red, and 2) it has a mini usb drive built-in. Now I can get rid of the USB memory stick I was carrying around. Like Alton Brown says, multi-tools beat one-hit-wonders (I'm paraphrasing).
If you need another reason to get the HooToo, having one also opens up the possibility for this...
Video streaming on a stick
Three years ago, we cut the Cable TV cord. We opted for Hulu, Netflix, and HBO Now. You get used to this world pretty quickly, and when you travel, you remember why you did it in the first place.
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. We have a mini-projector in our kit and it has an HDMI input. Problem solved!
You might think that this is great all by itself, but there is one potential hiccup.
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.
This is where the HooToo comes in. You can set up the HooToo and configure the streaming stick to connect to it first. Once the HooToo is authorized on the hotel network, your streaming stick will automatically start working. Now you can stream video on the wall in your hotel room rather than have to watch on your tiny laptop screen or mobile device.
I've tested all three. I like the Roku for it's simplicity and because it doesn't run down the battery of your mobile device while streaming content. But you have your choice here.
On-the-go internet access
For me, this is an emergency item that doubles as reasonably-priced internet access for international travel: The Skyroam Hotspot.
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.
It all fits into my Tech Travel kit GoBag:
Everything lives in here and I can just grab the bag and go. The bag is actually a cosmetic bag or toiletry bag, but it's my bag and I can do what I want with it. I am totally in love with this one because of the double side pockets. Toiletry bag or not, it's far more useful as my Tech Travel Kit Go-Bag.
Want to See it in Action?
At Summit, I watched Game of Thrones and something on Hulu during the week on the wall of my hotel room with the Chromecast attached to the Mini-projector. Commercial free.
View this post on Instagram
How to watch #GameOfThrones in bed in your hotel room. 1) HBO now 2) a mini projector http://amzn.to/1rNc4GZ 3) a chromecast device and a HooToo to assure speedy Internet connection not hindered by pesky hotel access gateways (pop up login screens that the chromecast can't negotiate on its own) http://amzn.to/1TDDHsE. (Optionally) a mini speaker too http://amzn.to/1TDEdXF
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:
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.