Category Archives: Events and Speaking

Talking Books 1: My Patented Talk-Giving Pack

Having given over 50 talks in the last year or so, I now have packing for them down to a fine art.  The perfect history book talk pack comprises the following for me:

One small hard-sided suitcase with wheels – cabin baggage size. Mine is this one – yes, expensive but very hard-wearing, has an interior net on one side of the case, and most important of all – featherweight (I can balance it on a finger).  You’ll see why this is important in a bit.

Inside this you put:

Books for sale at the talk.  I always try to find out the expected size of audience before a talk and estimate selling to 15% of the audience.  Books are heavy but also easily damaged.  That’s why you need a robust suitcase on wheels which is also as light as possible.  The books are packed round with the stiff paper from the publisher’s boxes sent to me wholesale.

A USB stick with my presentation on it.  This goes into the interior pocket of the suitcase.  I also have another USB stick in my handbag.  Oh, and the presentation is backed up online too, just in case.  I say ‘presentation’ but in fact I have about ten different versions for a variety of audiences and timings.  Sometimes I share the presentation in advance via the Cloud with talk organisers if they want to download it in advance.  I still take the USBs though.

A laser pointer/slide remote control for the Powerpoint.  Mine is the Kensington – a brilliant gizmo which works every single time and saves you being stuck by a laptop if you want to be elsewhere when presenting.

Spare batteries for the laser pointer.  The only disadvantage of the Kensington is that it doesn’t warn you when it’s about to conk out.

A float of £20 in £1 coins.

A signing pen, or two.

A cashbook with details of the number of books I have taken with me, so I can work out how many I’ve sold at the end.  I mark the books in the cashbook as I sell them, for the taxman.

Two A4 tabletop plastic display stands – one with blurb about the book from OUP, the other with prices of the paperback and hardback on it. I sell the books for the wholesale price, rounded up to the nearest pound for convenience.  There’s no point in authors doing otherwise today, unless you’re very famous and people are desperate for your signature (they’re not for mine!).  Otherwise people will simply check the price on Amazon on their phones (I’ve seen them do this) and buy there unless you’re cheaper.  Happily, getting the books off OUP wholesale means I manage to undercut Amazon by around 20p each time.

A replica tallystick for talks about the 1834 fire.

Leaflets, postcards and any other free giveaways (lightweight, natch).

Water and a snack (eg banana, nuts) – speaking requires energy and one hour’s constant talking requires wet vocal chords.

That leaves you with a bit of space for a toothbrush and undies if you’re staying overnight after the talk.

So, there we are.  All packed up and ready to talk.  If you do talks, what essentials do you take with you?  And what do you think makes an ideal talk host (the subject of my next blogpost)?


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