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Here’s What You Shouldn’t Leave Behind for Your Next Speaking Engagement

If you ask a well-versed wedding industry speaker what they typically bring to a speaking engagement, they’ll likely have an established checklist complete with items that you may not have thought of, or even some that you think are unnecessary. In reality, one of the first things to understand about being a speaker is that you can never come too prepared to your session.

By packing accordingly, you’ll mitigate fears of a misstep. Better yet, you’ll show the organization or association that booked you that you’re 100% ready to perform, and this establishes an early reputation that you’re reliable.

JoAnn Gregoli of Elegant Occasions by JoAnn Gregoli shares: “In order to stay organized, I make sure I prepare a packing list and check that list twice. If it’s an overseas speaking engagements, getting that outfit together is not easy or a universal adaptor to connect your computer is not easy to find last minute.”

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When in doubt though, always come prepared with backup plans. After all, it’s better safe than sorry. “I keep my cables in a little tech bag,” says Michelle Loretta of Sage Wedding Pros. “I also email myself my slide deck and print it out too, just in case anything goes wrong. It’s great to have a shortlist of items that you need and confirm it with the conference owner ahead of time.”

Here are your must-haves for every speaking engagement, no matter the size.


Of course, this is a no-brainer and probably the first thing on your list. However, many larger conferences will expect you to present your talk from their computer. Even in that case, it’s essential to bring your computer as a backup in the event that their system has issues on the day of. It’s not uncommon, and you could potentially save the day!

Just make sure that you are completely comfortable with any computer you’ll be working off of, especially when it comes to opening and navigating through your presentation with ease. Don’t forget your charger, and traveling case to protect it if necessary.


If you have a Mac, adaptors can make or break your presentation when it comes to speaking. Personally, I have witnessed countless hiccups when speakers don’t have the right adaptors and can’t access their slides to connect to the projector or screen.

My recommendation is to go to an Apple store, let them know you’re a professional speaker, and ask for every adaptor you could possibly need for any situation thrown your way. From my experience, I speak 20 plus times a year, and I can count on one hand how many times total that the on-site A/V has had adaptors readily available to me.

As a side note, some MacBooks from 2016 to 2018 don’t have USB ports, so triple-check that your adaptors are up to date with the newer models.

Photo by Harley Bonham

Slide changer

This is one of those things that you’d expect to be provided to you, but truthfully, I find that there is only going to be a 50/50 chance that A/V will have one at the ready. One of the downfalls of being a wedding speaker is having most of the technical aspects out of your hands, but this is something that you can control.

A slide changer is an easy way to add a level of professionalism to your presentation, but be sure to be absolutely clear on how it connects to your computer. Test it ahead of time to make sure you won’t hit an obstacle. You’ll also want to ensure that your adaptor is compatible with this clicker, and have some extra batteries on hand if needed!

“Forgetting backup batteries for my presentation clicker has happened more than once,” admits Shannon Tarrant of “This smart girl bought a pack of batteries to add to my organizer case and a backup clicker that is rechargeable.”


One of the caveats to presenting is that you have a strict time limit with most groups. For this, I highly advise investing in a small kitchen timer or something similar – unfortunately, a phone timer won’t cut it in this instance. The larger conferences will usually have a countdown timer available to you, but more often than not (in the case of conference breakouts and regional opportunities, especially), you’ll be left to keep track of time on your own.

Don’t assume that you’ll be able to use a timer on your laptop, as more presentations are actually being run from the back of the room. Plus, if you tend to move around a lot when you speak, you’re going to leave it at the podium and won’t be able to check the time with ease.

Thumb drive

While seemingly an outdated technology in this day in age, it’s still absolutely essential in the very rare instance that your presentation needs to be moved from one laptop to another, and quickly. These days, many thumb drives can’t plug directly into the side of newer laptops, especially MacBooks, which is all the more reason that bringing all necessary adaptors will be essential.

Before you go to your speaking engagement, make sure the presentation is properly saved on the thumb drive and on the computer itself. For good measure, it doesn’t hurt to have it saved on your desktop or on a file-share service like Dropbox, that way it’s easily accessible no matter where you are.

Multiple outfits

What you might think is over-packing could actually save you in a pinch, even for an hour or two of speaking. Always have a backup outfit on the off-chance that you have a spill, tear, or otherwise. All eyes will be on you, and you want to make a great impression!

In an ideal situation, you should have a way for a wireless lavaliere mic to be clipped on your waist for A/V – whether you’re wearing pants, a skirt, or a belt on a dress. Make comfort a priority; I personally recommend wearing a dress with pockets if you’re looking to go a little more formal, that way you can easily keep essentials nearby.

Of course, take weather into consideration and be aware of where you’ll be physically speaking. I’ve seen my fair share of speakers surprised by the fact that they’re expected to talk in an outdoor setting.

Antibacterial gel

More often than not, you are going to do a tremendous amount of hand shaking before and after your talk. And while, of course, there is never a true replacement for hand washing, it’s good to have a small container of antibacterial gel handy if you find that it’s not realistic to run off to the washrooms immediately following a round of handshakes. This is especially important during flu season, and traveling in general!

Printed biography

No doubt you would have connected with the program/education chair prior about your introduction, having sent along a file including your brief introduction. It never hurts, however, to have a hard copy of the introduction to have handy for whomever may be introducing you. Be sure to have a short version (a paragraph) as well as a secondary version that’s a bit more beefed up, both of which should include the title of your presentation. Be sure to leave some flexibility for the person introducing to be able to share personal anecdotes as he or she sees fit.

Let’s not forget – what you carry these items in is almost of equal importance. You don’t want to be juggling a handful of things in the midst of networking, and even more so, you don’t want to set something valuable down and lose it.

Meredith Commender of Significant Events of Texas adds: “I try to pack light and just bring the bare minimum of what I need so that I can focus on my presentation rather than my luggage!”

For the last five years, I’ve favored a travel backpack that’s specifically built for travel and technology. I love Timbuk2, which has great pockets for my chargers, adaptors, laptop and tablet. It gives you an even distribution on your back as well.

Keeping these things on hand will eliminate most of the stress that comes along with speaking, and it’ll convey to the organization and audience that you’re prompt and prepared. Don’t let this stand in the way of nailing that presentation!

Meghan Ely

President, OFD Consulting, Richmond, VA

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast. 

Photo: Melody Smith Portraits