Public Speaking – The Small Things

Rough Road Ahead!

Public Speaking is hard and is sometimes a rough road to go down.

There isn’t any other way to put it.  It takes work and won’t always go smoothly.  Not only do you have to generate a topic that you think will be interesting to attendees, but you also have to put a presentation together, practice it, fine tune it and then finally deliver it.

Keeping in mind that what can go wrong will go wrong, helps. As you stand to deliver your presentation, you realize that you’ve forgotten something. Perhaps you suddenly have the worst case of cotton mouth possible.  Or quite possibly, you will hear your stomach rumbling and maybe, just maybe, that burrito you ate for lunch will remind you that it wasn’t that good of an idea. Things like these are bound to happen.

Take it from someone who speaks, I can say that we’ve all been there.  From my experience over the past couple of years, I’ve put together a list of things that I carry with me to ensure that I avoid those rough roads.  Yes, things out of your control will happen.  Demo gods will raise their fists and smash your demo’s to pieces.  The bulb in the projector will suddenly reach the end of its life just as you start your presentation.  Sometimes you just can’t help those situations, even with the best of preparations.  So know this, especially if you are just starting out as a speaker,

1.  Things will happen that you cannot control.  

2.  You cannot fix rule #1.

However, it isn’t the end of the world.  Don’t fret over the bumps during your presentation. Learn from the experience, adjust accordingly and keep on speaking.  

Good?  Good!!

Now let’s have the list!


  1. theKeningtonClicker
    The Kensington. Clicker Among Clickers

    Presentation Clicker.  Get a good presentation clicker. You can spend a lot of money on one, but I recommend a mid-tier model since it will most likely do what you’ll need and not cost a bundle.  Some clickers are more fancy and have built in ways to keep your presentations on time but those options a matter of preference which I do not see a need for. Having a clicker allows you to have freedom to walk around during your presentation and not be tied to your laptop

  2. Spare batteries.  I always have a set of spare batteries for my gadgets,  Usually a 4-pack of AA and a 4-pack of AAA’s.  I have gadgets that use both so keeping both on hand is important to me.  Take a look at your arsenal of tech and see what you may or may not need batteries for.
  3. Backups.  Get a USB thumb drive and backup your slide deck, demo’s and any virtual machines that you might need.  I also back up my slides & demos to Dropbox as a secondary back up. Any type of cloud provider would also work for this.  In the event your laptop goes south for the winter (it will happen at some point), with a good backup in place you can work around it.
  4. Secondary Presentation Device.  If you have an Apple iPad or Microsoft Surface or a secondary laptop, configure it at the very least be a presentation device.  Personally, I have an iPad and can use it to present the slide deck if need be. I am told on a Surface, SQL server can be installed for demos but I’ve never done it. When you have laptop issues you can save the day by presenting from the secondary device, so make sure you have one available.
  5. VGA/Display adapters.  Carry your own.  Plain and simple.  Don’t assume that every place will have the proper adapters for your model laptop/device to connect to the projector.  This also goes for your backup device.  I’ve found that having just a VGA adapter is a safe bet, as that’s still fairly standard.  You can also get HDMI adapters, however I’ve yet to run into a projector that won’t take a VGA connection. I carry a VGA adapter for both my laptop and my iPad so that both of my devices will be usable.
  6. Travel mouse.  I have a smaller travel mouse that I use for presentations Having a mouse with me ensures I don’t have use the track pad if I don’t want to.  I find the mouse allows me to have a smoother experience while doing demos so I prefer it over the track pad.  This is my personal preference so you can adjust as needed.
  7. Watch.  If you are someone who doesn’t regularly wear a watch, I suggest you get some type of time keeping device that you can place on the desk and can see from a distance. Usually, I try to visit the room where I’ll be speaking prior to my session so that I can get a feel for the lay of the land.  This is also a good time to check to see if there is a clock within the room and make note of its location. Remember in your preparation make sure that you practice using the watch so that you know the timings of your presentation.
  8. Notes/Feedback.   Determine a good way (for you) to take notes during your presentation when needed.  As people ask you questions you’ll find things that you’ll potentially need to research and want to jot down to get back to them on.  Having a quick way to write down a note or question to remind yourself is handy.  Some presenters will use the note section of the slide deck when in Presenter mode while others will use a simple pad of paper & pen.

Personal Items

  1. Water.   Make sure you have bottled water with you.  Large amounts of talking dries my mouth out and having cotton mouth while presenting is not fun.  I usually carry at least 1 if not 2 bottles of water with me when I present.  Keep in mind, however, I do monitor my liquid consumption leading up to the my session so that I don’t have a sudden need to use the facilities in the middle of my session
  2. Hard candy/cough drops.  Some speakers would frown on this, but if your throat starts to dry out, you can use a hard candy or cough drops to help with that.  Sometimes water just isn’t enough. I have found that when traveling to locations where the elevation differs greatly from my normal surroundings, my throat tends to be more sensitive to those conditions.
  3. Hand sanitizer.  Pretty simple, keep the germs away.  Most attendees are polite and some will want to shake your hand and tell you “Thank You”.  This just helps to keep colds at bay.
  4. Pain Reliever.  Aspirin/Motrin/Advil/Ibproferin/etc, whatever your choice is.  Keep a small bottle with you so that you can take some if you feel a headache or something else coming on.
  5. Pepto Bismol/Tums.
    1. When I travel to another location, I love to try the local cuisine and sometimes that’s a bad decision for me.  Food can sometimes sneak up on you and if you don’t have anything to help counteract that, you could be in trouble.   Personally, I recommend the chewable versions of Pepto Bismol as it’s easy to carry through the airports.


Now that you have the list, how do you keep it organized? I’ve tried a couple of different ways to organize things within my back pack, however I’ve found using two separate cases works best for me.  Of course, your mileage may vary and you might have to try a couple of variations until you find one that works for you.

File Feb 18, 18 07 37

The one case on the left is used for most of my tech.  It holds my VGA cables, charging cables, batteries of various sorts, power adapters, my MiFi along with various odds & ends.

I bought the case from Amazon for less than $20.  So far it has served me well and fits nicely in my back pack.

personalStorageThe case on the right is what I use to keep those personal items organized.  Before traveling, I make a stop at the local Target and visit their travel section.  You can get all of the personal items listed above (except the water) in travel sizes This allows them to fit nicely within the case.

Once I have my supplies, I will usually place the case somewhere in my back pack that is easily accessible.  There are times when traveling that some of these items can come in useful and I want to be able to get them easily.

Will this solve everything?

Nope. It might not even come close.  Then again, something on this list just might help to give you a detour around that rough road and you’ll give the best presentation ever because you planned ahead.  When you set forth to put do a public presentation, don’t forget to think about the small things.  Hopefully my list will help you get started!

Do you already have a list and have something that I don’t have on mine?  I’d like to know!


© 2015, John Morehouse. All rights reserved.

3 Replies to “Public Speaking – The Small Things”

  1. Great article! I second all your points above. I am one of those people who uses my presentation clicker for a timer. Last year I picked up the Logitech R800 presentation clicker, which has a timer and also discretely vibrates when I have 5, 2, and 0 minutes left.

    Also, I will confirm rules #1 and #2. I have been speaking about 2.5 years, and I’ve had the following things happen: projector overheated and we moved rooms in the middle of my presentation, my harddrive started failing and I could no longer connect to my VM on my local machine, a demo bombed, I had no internet access when I needed to demo Power Maps (which requires a connection), I got lost in an unfamiliar city and arrived less than 5 minutes before I was supposed to present. And after all that I’m still standing (and presenting!). You live and learn, try examine the situation to see if you can be better prepared the next time, and tell your funny presentation disaster story to your other presenter friends.

  2. Projector overheated? Wow, I haven’t seen that one (yet)! Thanks for pointing out that you are still here & presenting! Great reminder that life continues!

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