Lee Odden

Geeky Gadgets for Surviving and Thriving at Conferences

Geeky Gadgets

Here I sit blogging in my hotel room at the Renaissance in Austin, Texas before a full day of search and social marketing brain dump at Pubcon South. Immediately after that is SXSWi for a few days. A few days after that it’s NYC for a PRSA thing followed by SES New York.  I speak at 15 plus events a year which means a good amount of travel. Unless you’re thoughtful about it, travel & conferences can equal a lot of unproductive time.

That’s where the geeky gadgets come in. While I would have liked to name this post “10 Electronic Gadgets a Digital Marketer Can’t Live Without”, the reality is that there are many more than 10.

Tumi ballistic nylon briefcase – A bag is more important than many think. The right number of pockets inside and out, rugged, not too big or too small. This bag works perfectly for all those reasons, especially for my laptop.

Sony Vaio VGN-TXN25N – This 11″ screen laptop is common sized to many netbooks on the market today, but mine is at least 3 years old and packs some real punch for it’s size (2.8 lbs). As a laptop, 3 years is 90 years in people time so I am looking at an upgrade to a solid state drive. I do quite a bit of blogging at conferences, so a small form factor is useful for being mobile. It’s also appreciated when doing work on airplanes, where space is an issue because of Mr, “I have to see how far back by seat goes” sitting in front of you. Oh, and stickers on your laptop are what happen from numerous trips to Web 2.0 conferences and the bay area Tweetups. It’s also a good conversation starter.

ATT USBConnect Mercury Wireless Card – The antennae for my built in wireless card broke off and I can’t stomach the idea of sending my laptop to Sony for 2 weeks to get it repaired. Not wanting to pay through the nose for hotel internet any longer, I broke down and purchased this wireless card from ATT and it’s worked great for me everywhere I go.

No Name 4 outlet power strip – I have no idea who makes this, but it’s a 4 outlet mini power strip that’s only 5″ long and makes friends easily at conferences where laptop and iPhone charging is in high demand and outlets are not.

3G iPhone – I was a Blackberry user for a while and after buying my partner an iPhone I had to get one myself and I love it. Typing takes some getting used to and no copy paste is a pain in the ass, but there are so many other productive and entertaining uses for this thing – especially web browsing, email, calendar and Twitter.  Plus photos and YouTube are handy. I don’t see going back to another phone exclusively any time soon.

iPod Touch – I got the Touch before my iPhone and that’s where my music, purchased TV shows, music videos and a few movies are. Plus a number of videos from Google Video. Love that you can directly transfer from Google Video to iTunes. Too bad Google Video is being phased out. I also use the Touch as a storage device and where there’s an available internet connection, I can surf Google or web mail.

Sony Cybershot DSC-W80 – Not pictured because it’s taking the picture above. Friends and long time followers know of my sad tale of losing my old Sony Cybershot to a glass of water at a Russian restaurant in NYC. Then it came back to life! But again, tragedy struck after I left it in my pocket and the Cybershot went through a washing machine AND dryer. Get this: It came back to life AGAIN! It doesn’t work quite the same though, so I picked up a new model. I’d still like to have the old one though, worked like a charm at conferences fitting easily into a suite or jeans pocket – very sturdy.

Battery charger for the Cybershot – What else can I say? It charges my camera battery. I like the folding prongs but it’s still too bulky.

Pure Digital Flip Video camera – This has got to be the handiest, portable video camera I’ve had. It takes perfectly good video for the web and battery life is better than normal. Uploading to YouTube is a snap too. It’s great for informal video interviews with conference speakers and industry people who don’t mind talking in front of a camera.

USB cord and outlet adapter for iPhone – Apple product design rocks.

SanDisk MobileMate SD+ Card Reader – For SD+ Memory sticks, my older laptop needs a card reader. This one is compact and handy.

64mb Thumb Drive – Conference swag from Ford. I have many of these thumb drives, but this is the one that happens to be in my bag at the moment. If I ever purchased one, it would have a lot more than 64mb but that’s plenty for a few PPT presentations.

Shure Earbud Headphones – These portable earbuds are perfect for use with my iPod Touch or iPhone. Awesome bass in such a little package and the come with multiple sized covers and a handy nylon case. While writing blog posts at conferences, it can get me in the zone to listen to a bit of music.

Logitech VX Nano Wireless Laser Notebook Mouse – The USB receiver for this mouse is absolutely tiny and you can leave it in at all times with no problem. A small size and perfect form factor with all the features of large, full featured devices.  My laptop touchpad is horrible and this mouse makes me much more productive.

Gorilla Camera Tripod –  Flexible joints make this awesome tripod fit anywhere for taking still shots or video with my Sony Cybershot or any other camera that can connect to a screw in tripod. Great for interviews when it’s just me and I want to be in the interview or unusual camera angles.

Brookstone Rechargable Backup Battery – If you have an iPhone, I know your pain. Short battery life. Besides, with power outlets at a premium, we wouldn’t want anything to get in the way of our Twittering, would we?  [Said with a crazed look] That’s why for conferences, it’s really helpful to have a backup battery and this one works for me just fine. Plus it has a retractable cord that makes it especially convenient.

So there you have it. I’m sure I could have many more gadgets and certainly many of those that I do have need updating/upgrading. Maybe I’ll make this a quarterly feature. What do you think?  

What  geeky electronic gadgets make you more productive and entertained during conferences?

PoorSo SoOKGoodAwesome (2 votes, average: 1.50 out of 5)

Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. I cannot believe that iPhones cannot copy/paste! I hope that they change that in their next version.

    Great post! You certainly have a lot of interesting and useful electronics. I wish I could afford them. 🙁


  2. “3 years is 90 years in people time” –I love it, and so true. Makes me wonder why Sony 3 years ago could make a full function 11″ notebook, but now everyone is making crippled small notebooks aka netbooks? Why not focus on a smaller fuller feature notebook?

    • Exactly. The Vaio wasn’t cheap compared to 15 and 17″ comparables, but the size and features were/are amazing. Great for travel.

  3. Avatar Blair Cook says


    One item I have found useful while on the road is a travel router. Previously working off an iPhone and now a BlackBerry Bold, I found that setting up my own network was helpful for making Skype calls from my phone via WiFi. A WiFi network is also nice if you want to work from somewhere in the hotel room other than the desk.

    D-Link makes a good travel router, the DWL-G730AP Wireless Pocket Router.

    • Great suggestion Blair, I’ll check it out. Since I use a wireless card, I can work from anywhere – even poolside. Now if it would just warm up in Austin!

  4. From everything I have been told and read about the iPhone, it seems like the shitest device ever created. I was expecting it to be amazing, a few friends of mine have them and they were all deeply disappointed.

  5. Can’t understand why there aren’t links to pages to purchase these items. Affiliate links or not, I could care less. Great stuff Lee.

    • Hey Dan, I didn’t add links because I had no time and the purpose of the post wasn’t to sell anything or appear that I was trying to sell anything.

  6. The powerstrip is brilliant! I never actually thought of that, though it makes perfect sense.

    My conference gear this year consists of a Samsung camera (needs to be upgraded badly), my G1, Insignia HD cam with 8gb sd card, 2gb thumb drive (the only place I’m beating you at so far), Gorilla tripod, Logitech VX Nano Wireless Laser Notebook Mouse (i love the tiny receiver too), USB cord that works for both G1 & cam, a messenger bag that’s had many purposes, hopefully I’ll have my Seige Audio earbuds if not then it will be my SkullCandy earbuds, and finally my new favorite toy my HP mini netbook (utilizing GoEverywhere when internet access allows of course).

    Everytime I look at the gear I take around it really amazes me at what we have and how much easier it’s getting to take it all around with you. Thanks for the list, it’s fun seeing someone else’s line up and I’m definitely going to have to check out one of those bags.

  7. This might as well be a snapshot of what my bed looks like of packing before a conference trip. Only addition is beleive it or not I have a blackberry on top of all this. Yea, iPhone using twittedfon, bberry using twitterberry, video camera for our YouTube channel. Can’t wait for a couple more years when all this is combined into a palm sized gadget. 🙂

  8. I can definitely use the iPod Touch and power strip! I could have really used a mini power strip last weakened at an expo I attended in the hotel room when I needed more than two sockets near my desk.

  9. Nice article. I would pack a Kodak Zi6 and a Blackberry Bold. Zi6 has unlimited memory and can take stills. Bold can take real time videos and upload realtime to blog, Twitter, etc.

  10. Haha Lee, nearly identical to my lightweight netbook setup. http://bit.ly/zjBMU

  11. Check out the new iPhone 3.0 software!!

    Cut ‘n’ paste, but still no Flash player…yet…?!