Favorited Backup by Jeremy Keith

Jeremy recounts some conference experiences he himself and Michelle Baker have made with last minute tech issues in getting your slides up and running at a conference. Like Jeremy I prefer to use my own laptop. But, yes, that sometimes turns out to not work or be impossible at the venue. A key reason to use my own laptop is I like to work on my slides while already at the event when I’m speaking later in the day. It allows me to adapt wording to what the participants are using, better contextualise it to the event’s atmosphere, replace some examples that have been used already in other people’s talks, or connect my story to those by others.

That said I do also make sure to have a prepared slidedeck with me (nowadays that is, it definitely wasn’t always so). Especially when working abroad I usually travel with that slidedeck in Keynote, a powerpoint formatted export, and two PDFs (one with just the slides, one slides with my notes). The PDF with just the slides, I usually have available online already as well. Where venue equipment glitches it means I can do my talk with or without my own laptop, or with or without slide projection altogether. Each of those additional versions I carry has been added as precaution after first having been issues encountered. The ‘slides as images’ Jeremy mentions is also a useful tip, so one can share .key or .ppt files with the correct fonts and locations of everything.

One thing Jeremy describes I’d never do: put my slides on a usb stick handed to me by someone at the venue, to add my files to their central machine. I’ve worked in countries and with governments where giving someone else access to your hardware is sure to result in additional installed features without my consent. I therefore always carry blank USB sticks with me on which I can put files to share with others which they can then keep, so that I never have to use someone else’s usb stick with my laptop. I have red ones and blue ones, and allow people to choose 😉

I think I’ll be making image-only versions of all my talks from now on. Hopefully I won’t ever need them, but just knowing that the backup is there is reassuring.

Jeremy Keith


A red and a blue usb stick, you can choose and keep. You can also choose whether to believe I am a nice guy handing out free usb sticks or a cautious one not letting your usb sticks near my laptop.

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