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21 Essential Gadgets to Boost Conference Content Creation & Travel Productivity

Posted on Aug 13th, 2012
Written by Lee Odden
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  • 21 Essential Gadgets to Boost Conference Content Creation & Travel Productivity
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    gadgets accessories travel content marketingThis week I’m in San Francisco for the SES conference. I’m really looking forward to this event because TopRank has a great team in attendance with my Marketing Manager @azeckman, Account Manager @Alexis5484 and Senior Technical SEO @thomcraver who will be speaking on Deep Dive Analytics.

    If you’ve read our blog for any period of time, you know I attend a lot of conferences. I couldn’t or wouldn’t do that if it wasn’t productive and in the past I’ve shared many ways to get more value from attending conferences and events. But that’s not all there is.

    One of the best ways to gain business value from attending conferences and events is by creating content. I’ve been liveblogging and doing interviews at conferences for many years and so have many of the team at TopRank Online Marketing. We’ve created hundreds of blog posts this way, providing our readers with useful tips and information that gives event speakers and interviewees with exposure while expanding the search and social visibility of Online Marketing Blog.

    One way to improve your productivity while traveling, attending conferences and creating content at events is to have the right tools. But it can be a pain in the rear to carry a lot of equipment. I’ve been “optimizing” my gear for travel and conference attendance for a while and thought I’d share.  Below is a photo of what I bring to conferences to help me get the most out of the time I spend there.

    accessories gadgets macbook air iphone

    I’ll describe each item, how I use it and a link to where you can get it. (some of the links from the images are affiliate links). Clockwise starting from the bottom:

    1. Incase laptop bag: As you can see I have a 13″ MacBook Pro and after trying several great laptop bags including a very fine one from Tumi, this bag is the right combination of light, useful and roomy for what I need to bring on any trip. It’s pretty basic with one large pocket in the middle with a sort of faux fur lining inside. There is one large outside pocket with a velcro closure (perfect size for a copy of Optimize) and on the other side are two more pockets for all of the accessories and gadgets you see pictured above. There is only one zipper for both pockets which is minimally inconvenient.  About $38.00 on Amazon.


    2. Apple Mini DisplayPort to VGA Adapter: If you own a Mac then there are a number of adapters you’ll need for compatibility with other devices. It’s a bit annoying but you get used to it.  I speak at a lot of conferences and some require you to bring your own laptop. I bring the adapter to make sure there is no issue with connecting my laptop to conference projection hardware.

    Once when I gave the opening keynote at a conference, the organizer put the wrong presentation (from a USB stick) on the event laptop. I was able to connect my MacBook Air quickly with no issues because of having this adapter. About $29.00 on Apple Store.

    3. Apple USB Power Adapter & Qmadix cord – A must cord if you want to charge your iPhone, iPod or iPad devices. I lost my original Apple cord and replaced it with a generic one which has little clever blue lights on it. Adapter is around $10.00 on Amazon and the dock connector to USB cable is around $19.00 on the Apple store. Those are crazy prices, just buy a generic one for $2-10 on Amazon or at the airport.


    4. Apple USB Ethernet Adapter – I rarely need this since wireless is the way to go, but on occasion, the only internet access of substantial quality is wired. And that’s important when you’re on the road and need to do Skype video interviews, Google Hangouts or transfer large files quickly, like video interviews uploaded to YouTube.  About $29.00 at the Apple store.

    Square credit card reader

    5. Square Credit Card Reader – I never thought I’d need one of these, but when you’re an author, there are situations while at conferences where people want to buy books without waiting for delivery from Barnes & Noble or Amazon. I don’t always bring books with me to events so I’ve rarely needed it, but when I did, having it was extremely convenient for all involved. Free when you sign up for a square account. You can buy extras from the Apple store for $10 each.

    6. MagSafe Power Adapter for MacBook Air – A must have if you want to keep your MacBook Air charged. About $46 on Amazon to replace.


    7. Apple Magic Mouse – This is an extra mouse I carry with for travel.  The built-in trackpad has never been very convenient for me and I need every little bit of productivity gain I can get when traveling. This mouse works great plus its slim form factor works great for travel. About $69 from the Apple store.

    philips 3 outlet power strip

    8. Philips 3-Outlet Travel Power Strip – After buying one of these, I’ve purchased extras and given them away. It’s been getting a little better lately with airports installing more charging stations and some conferences doing the same. But overall, finding power when traveling can be a problem. That’s why a small power strip like this can be both an essential means to provide power access for multiple people and it can become a bit of a IRL social networking tool too.  I didn’t have it with me for the photo above and Amazon no longer carries them. But you can pick one up for about $7 at

    Tumi Mesh bag

    9. Tumi Mesh Accessories Bag – This came with the previously mentioned Tumi laptop bag that I used to use for my older MacBook Air computers. The Tumi bag didn’t make the cut (heavier than the Incase bag). But this mesh accessories bag is essential for carrying most of the gadgets and accessories in the picture above. The’re not for sale individually, but you can find small mesh bags at Target or Amazon.

    10. Samsonite WoldWide Adaptor Plug – Most of my international travel has been to Western Europe and the Asia Pacific region (Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong) so I haven’t needed any exotic power adapter devices. This one in particular I picked up about 5 years ago and I’ve not been able to find another just like it so I’ve included a picture of the one that’s most curent. It can be used in Australia, China, US, Europe and UK. It’s just one piece that folds out different configurations based on what country you’re in. Very handy. About $24.00 on Amazon.

    11. New Trent iCarrier 12000mAh 2A&1A heavy duty Dual Port Charger – This is a very large external battery, but when you’re on the road for 12 hours without access to power, this thing is priceless. It will charge your iPhone and iPad many times. You wouldn’t carry it in your pocket but in a laptop bag, it fits fine and is quite useful. About $80.00 on Amazon.

    usb to mini usb cable

    12. USB to Mini USB Cable – This came with one of the many gadgets or devices I’ve purchased and instead of carrying 5 of them, I carry just one to use for charging several other items on this list including the Verizon Jetpack MiFi, Bluetooth lavalier microphone and others.  It works with the New Trent battery or with any laptop with a USB port. Get a generic one on Amazon for $1.00-5.00 or at a Best Buy store.

    13" Macbook Air

    13. 13-inch MacBook Air – This is a fantastic computer, particularly for travel. It’s loaded with 2.0GHz Intel Dual-Core Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 3.2GHz, 8 GB of memory, 512 GB of Flash Storage, a ton of battery life and it’s both super sturdy and light. Basically, it’s like a MacBook Pro in an Air form factor. About $1700 from the Apple store. I wish that was an affiliate link, but alas it is not 🙂

    14. Olloclip 3 in 1 iPhone Lens – This is the best lens I could find for enhancing the iPhone 4s camera. During my 5 hours in Paris, I captured some amazing shots because of the wide angle and the fish eye lenses. Same for my many photos of audiences before I give a presentation.  When I was last in New York, I took some great photos with the macro lens as well. It easily snaps on by pressure and stays on. The only downside is that if you use a case, this lens doesn’t fit.  I don’t use a case so it’s perfect for me. About $70 on Amazon.

    15. iPhone 4S White 32 gb – Once I purchased an iPhone for my partner, I was hooked and I’ve been buying the newest model since. This one was a “meh” since Siri is a pure waste of time for me. However, I have become very efficient with email, social networking, news and photos / video with the iPhone 4s. It is the device I use most often every day. Get it at Apple Store, Best Buy, AT&T stores or Amazon. Prices vary.

    16. Scosche Wireless Bluetooth Microphone for Video Recording – The video quality on the iPhone 4S is pretty great, but the microphone isn’t good at all, especially if you’re at a noisy conference. This wireless mic works like a lavalier and can be clipped on to the lapel of the person you’re interviewing while you hold the iPhone.  You can also have someone else shoot the video with the iPhone while you use the Scosche as a microphone for both you and the interviewee. I tested it up to 25 feet away and it works great.  The audio is about like what someone sounds like when they call in to a radio show. It’s not great audio, but it’s a lot better than the iPhone and gives you the option to capture video and audio in some interesting scenarios. About $62 on Amazon.

    17. Verizon jetpack 4G MiFi – I used to have AT&T USB WiFi devices which worked OK when they worked. Connectivity was always an issue more than the devices. I cancelled 3 of those accounts and purchased one from Verizon using this MiFi device. Being able to share the internet connection from this one device with several of my co-workers at a conference when the conference wifi is a crapshoot, can be very useful for filing liveblog posts on time. The 4G speed with this thing has been fast enough for me to do Skype video interviews while traveling. It’s also enough to stream Netflix but watch the GB transfer.  Check the Verizon site for prices.

    18. Shure Headphones – I’ve had these for a while. They fit and sond great and really have nothing to do with creating content while traveling or when you’re at a conference. But they do make it easy to “check out” on the plane when you don’t have the MUCH better noise canceling Bose Quiet Comfort 15’s with you. About $120 on Amazon.

    19. Two Kingston 16 GB Data Traveler Flash Storage USB Fobs – If you’re giving presentations, you must have a USB stick or more. AV people will take them and not give them back. You will forget them in the computers too. I like these because they are one solid piece of metal with a ring on one end so you can attach them to a keychain like the kind found inside good laptop bags. About $13.00 each at Amazon.

    20. Two Cuflinks – Nothing to do with creating content at conferences, but I’ll take a stab: If you bring a French cuff shirt and forget the cuff links, it looks pretty bad. Or at least incomplete and distracting. When you’re holding a camera up to your face to do a video interview with someone, the interviewee could be distracted by the fact that you’re wearing a French cuff shirt. Instead of paying attention to you or giving clever answers, they may be wondering if you forgot the cufflinks or maybe you’re making a fashion statement. Or more likely you forgot them and if you are capable of forgetting the cuff links, what else will you forget? So pack extra cufflinks to improve your video interview content.  That’s a reach I know, but I tried. All I know is, I’ve been saved numerous times by keeping a pair of cuff links in my laptop bag. $30 on Amazon and various prices at department and jewelry stores.

    21. Logitech Wireless Headphones h800 – These folding headphones sound fantastic and are priceless for Skype calls when you’re on the road. The small USB receiver stores inside one of the ear pieces when not in use. It can connect wirelessly or through a USB to mini USB connection cable to your computer. The sound quality is quite good and I prefer it over my Yeti microphone for audio-only recording sessions. Here’s a video I did with Kevin Hunt of General Mills while wearing these headphones so you can hear what they sound like. About $75 on Amazon.

    So, is that really it? Is this all I bring while traveling and to conferences to create content? Two things not pictured are my Sony NEX 5n camera and a small, mini charger attachment for the iPhone.  Other things come and go, but at the moment this is about all I can fit in my laptop bag!

    What are some of your favorite travel gadgets and accessories? What tools make you more productive at conferences?