Tools of the trade – what every speaker needs in their bag

Updated to Business, Speaking on January 23, 2023.

I love speaking. And I hate packing for speaking.

So, it really helps to have the right gear and a packing list.

In this post I’m sharing what gear is in my bag when I hit the road. There’s lots of options out there, but these are what have worked for me – so I’ve put my trust in them. Note, I’m an affiliate for some of these products and if you choose to purchase them I may receive a small fee.


I’ve owned lots of remotes and it’s nice when you finally find one that becomes your trusted friend. My go-to remote is the Keyspan PR-PR03. It’s super light, almost invisible in my hand and has enough bells and whistles to make me look sharp without getting in the way.

The only downside is the shape of both ends is identical, so I often have to feel the power switch on the side to make sure I’m not holding it backwards (pointing the laser at yourself is funny…once).

In this post you can get my keynote A/V check list that I use before every presentation.

Cables and stuff

This where it gets messy. I try to keep cables to a minimum, but I think mine are mating like a bunch of randy garter snakes. In addition to the usual power cords for my laptop and phone, this is what I haul:

  • Mac to VGA projector dongle. If the word “dongle” doesn’t make you smile then you don’t need one (and you probably still use a PC). On the other hand, if you own a Mac, this essential (by the way, I discovered if there are two thunderbolt ports on your Macbook, the one closest to the power gets priority.)
  • 3-port wall plug adapter. This $1 investment saves my bacon on every trip. Most airports have woken up and installed more plugs in waiting lounges, but occasionally I still need to whip out my handy plug to share a crowded outlet.

You’ll also thank me next time you check into your next oh-so-inviting Motel 6 with one wall plug left. Ninja hack: I saw off the third ground plug so I know I can plug into even a cheap extension cord.

  • Thunderbolt to HDMI cable. I’ve only used it a few times, but if through some miscommunication the client meant flat screen TV when he said projector and screen, you’re covered.
  • Spare AAA batteries for remote mouse (because throwing a dead remote at the screen never works).


I carry a GXT 8GB memory stick for quick back up of my presentation, handouts, introduction and videos. It’s saved my bacon many times and it’s got enough storage so I rarely have to clean it out to make more room.

I also pack a WD My Passport Ultra with a whopping 2T of storage. It’s about the size of two smart phones and can gobble up a back up of your entire lap top and still have room for every document in the Library of Congress (some light reading).

This is where I keep all our past programs, like BOSS. As I’m putting slide decks together I can quickly access a slide I need.

I also use it for swiping quick copies of live video of me. This happened a few times lately where the A/V crew will give me a copy of what they shot that day. These are huge files, but the Passport gobbles them up. It’s fast, no hassle with the client, I’m done and I get fresh footage for promotion.


I swear by the quality of the Briggs and Riley cases. I’m using the Contact Medium Brief (which surprisingly sounds like something I’d wear, not sling over my shoulder) and it’s brilliant. This is my second B&R and although you pay a premium, they really are tough – even two years later it will still look new. When they say guaranteed for life – they mean it. I had my last B&R for 6 years before a zipper finally went and a local shop repaired it on warranty – no questions asked.


When I had a podcast I would always to try to land interviews when on the road. My record was 6 interviews in two days.

Smartphones are getting better audio recording quality, but for reproduction you really need a good quality recorder. I invested in the Roland R-05 Studio WAVE/MP3 Recorder and it’s incredible.

You can test sound quality before hitting record, adjust for noisy rooms and rest assured that even in a busy hotel lobby the sound is crisp and clear.


Depending on the venue, I might pack a whole A/V set up, or just a fistful of felt pens. Assuming there is a projector and flip chart, here’s the minimum:

Flip charts and stuff


Felt pens. If you’ve ever used the blunt, dried out excuse of a felt pen most hotels offer up, you’ll be highly motivated to pack your own.

Green painter’s tape. If you’ve ever gone to remove the tape holding your flip chart paper to the hotel room wall only to watch the wall paint come off with it (busted), you’ll know why you have to use green painter’s tape. Spend the extra $1 and get the good stuff at your local hardware store.

4X6 index cards. I can always use index cards for a quick exercise or lesson. And if I’m not using handouts, I get delegates to do exercises on one side and write their commitment on the other. In this post I gave you 7 ways to get audience participation. And in this one I describe my peer-to-peer coaching exercise.


I relied on my trusty Altec Lansing inMotion folding speakers for over a decade. The iPod (remember those?) port is a bit, ugh, useless, but it folds down to a compact unit and it can crank out the sound. In a really small room and for a short video you can get away with your laptop speakers. But beyond about 30 people, it’s not enough.


I would go with (I haven’t tried it, but I love the size) Aud Mini, by iLuv. It’s the size of a smartphone, but fatter, sells for about $20 and is Bluetooth only with a rechargeable battery.



That’s the gear I pack with me. The last item I never leave home without is a plan for a workout. Read about my 15 minute hotel room workout here.