Tips for Travelling to Tech Conferences, Part 9

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In the previous parts of this series, I have shared my tips on travelling to tech conferences, including tips for booking flights and hotels, tips for coping with jetlag, how to convince your boss, and the top tech events to visit.

Today, I’ll share my tips on the gear to pack, besides the Wi-Fi router and power distribution unit (PDU) you’ll need in your hotel room.

Ultimately, with the gear you pack, you’ll need to be able to:

  • Take notes during a day packed with interesting tech sessions
  • Take pictures of interesting slides with too much information to take notes on (for instance slides with informational tables)
  • Take videos of awesome demos
  • Keep in touch with the home front
  • Keep safe in the hostile networking environments of hotels and conferences
  • Find your way to and from the conference and other hotspots
  • Keep yourself entertained during flights and rides
  • (Optionally) blog your experiences
  • (Optionally) present sessions and/or deliver demos

Now, you might already see that one device won’t cut it. Two might:

  • A smartphone, equipped with navigation software, music, videos and a way to transfer pictures and videos to and from another device. Also, make sure it has the app for the event installed and kept up to date.
  • A laptop/tablet, equipped with a keyboard, a webcam and microphone and your favorite software to keep in touch and blog.


The ‘smartphone’ device

A smartphone device should last for 18 hours when used intensively: from 7AM in the morning when you leave your hotel room to 1AM when you might return to it.  Since most smartphones don’t last that long, pack a mobile battery with it. When you use Bluetooth to share information between your phone and other gear, note that that may drain your battery fast, unless the devices are equipped with Bluetooth LE.

Make sure you charge both devices each night in your hotel room.

Most smartphone cameras are incapable of taking photos of information on slides due to the large contrast between the screen and the room. Information will consistently be non-readable. Take a proper camera when this is a big issue for you.


The ‘laptop’ device

A laptop/tablet device should last for 7 hours when used intensively. Depending on your needs, this may include browsing the Internet using WiFi, taking notes, blogging and running virtual machines (VMs).

I use a Dell Precision M4700 as my laptop device. To reach the 7 hours battery time, it is equipped with a 9-cells (97Wh) primary battery and a click-on 9-cells (97Wh) battery using the docking station connector… but only when I use the following power savings:

  • Disable keyboard lighting (Fn + Cursor Right multiple times)
  • Disable Screen backlight (Fn + Cursor Down multiple times)
  • Disable WiFi and Bluetooth (using the switch on the right side of the device)

If you want to use it for work during an intercontinental flight, you might need to pack more battery power or find yourself a seat on the plane, equipped with a power outlet.

When you merely want to listen to music on a flight without onboard entertainment, you might want to use the smartphone device to that purpose. When you want to watch videos on your own, a laptop device might be overkill and a tablet device like an iPad or Surface may prove more useful.


The ‘demo’ device

When you deliver a session during a tech conference, it’s a good idea to pack a separate demo device.

As a frequent presenter, I carry around a separate demo device, next to the Dell Precision machine and my Surface 2. While my Surface 2 can be used to deliver a PowerPoint-based presentation, it can’t run Virtual Machines. When my Precision M4700 breaks during the trip, the spare demo device could save my behind.

Of course, packing two laptop devices will probably make your carry-on luggage exceed the maximum allowed weight for it, but don’t be tempted to put one of your devices in your checked luggage. It’s a recipe for it to get stolen.



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