Jonathan Sears,


Partner, Sears Chartered Accountants

11 years experience as a licenced Chartered Accountant.

Other articles by this author

When travelling, keep your presentation material with you at all times.

Travelling to meet a client, set up a training course or establish a new business presents the risk of lost luggage and equipment at any time of year. But the greater volume of travellers and longer wait times during the winter holiday season increase the possibility of loss and the embarrassment of not having what you need when you have to make your presentation to your client.

Develop a Habit

Be proactive. Making a list prevents you from leaving things on your desk or kitchen table. Put items in the same place in your briefcase every time you travel. When finished with an item, return it immediately to its usual place. This applies whether you are reviewing material on the plane, in a taxi or at your hotel.

Good use-and-return habits will reduce the possibility of items being misplaced. Work with only one item at a time. Using your laptop while talking on your cell phone only increases the likelihood that something will go amiss.

Always in Your Possession

Course material or presentation material should never be checked in as luggage.

Never leave any luggage at the bar or on a seat to go for coffee or to the washroom. Asking a stranger to “watch this for a moment” is a leap of faith as that person may be waiting for the very opportunity you have just provided.

When the cab driver grabs your luggage do not give him your laptop or anything else important. Carry them with you in the cab. Before you pay the driver, check for your wallet, handbag, cell phone, laptop, briefcase and, of course, your suitcase.

Hotel rooms are not as secure as you might think.

Victims of Theft are Victims of Trust

Hotel Bellhop: Don’t let the bellhop carry course material or your laptop.

Hotel Room Security: Any time the room is empty there is a chance something could be stolen. Cleaning staff often prop open the door while changing linen and have no way of knowing whether a person entering the room is you. Leaving your laptop or smart phone unattended can be risky. Check valuable items at the front desk.

Hotel Room Safe: Your room safe may seem secure but often is not. Hotel security needs a master password to open all safes in case of emergency. They often use the manufacturer’s original password. An easy-to-remember number such as “0000” is a common manufacturer’s set-up password.

Airport Security: The airport security process momentarily separates you from your carry-on luggage, wallet, keys, handbag, camera and other small but valuable items. A conveyor belt moves your luggage, etc., through an X-ray scanner while you walk through the metal detector. As you are being delayed at the metal detector, it is easy to lose sight of your luggage sitting for a few moments at the end of the conveyor belt. A thief could easily pick up your things and be quickly lost in the crowd. In a large terminal the possibility of finding the thief is remote. It pays to observe the individuals in front of you and what they place onto the conveyor belt. Always be aware of where your belongings are. As you pick them up review what you placed in the basket on the other side of the scanner.

Convention Meeting Room: Meeting rooms in hotels or convention centres offer little security. Computers and other presentation devices can be easily stolen because participants do not know each other and simply assume the perpetrator is there for the event. Those producing the show should have security personnel in the room during breaks and mealtimes.

Take a Minute to Review

Regardless of precautions, needed material can still disappear. The following checklist may help ensure that your presentation is successful.

  1. If the material is in digital format, carry backup on a memory device. Keep one on your person and place another in your carry-on luggage. If the data is sensitive, install password protection.
  2. Develop your material with commonly used software. If there is a malfunction, you can probably revive the data on your host computer. Know your host operating system. If your host is an older version of Excel, for instance, and your data is produced on the latest version, it is possible the host system will not accept conversion.
  3. Install communication software that can access your office computer in case your laptop malfunctions or is stolen.
  4. Carry the communication CD in your personal luggage. You can load it onto another computer and access data.
  5. Store passwords on your PDA and on paper. Just carry them separately!
  6. If hardcopy is required, plan to have it sent a week before the event. Make arrangements with the recipient to contact you when the material has arrived. If revisions are necessary, they can be added after you arrive. Participants will accept two or three pages of revisions but will not be so forgiving if none of the material is available.

Murphy’s Law

It would be nice to disprove Murphy’s Law, “If anything can go wrong, it will”. You can reduce the chances of Murphy’s Law derailing your presentation by adhering to good planning habits and ensuring that appropriate contingency plans are in place.


BUSINESS MATTERS deals with a number of complex issues in a concise manner; it is recommended that accounting, legal or other appropriate professional advice should be sought before acting upon any of the information contained therein.

Although every reasonable effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this letter, no individual or organization involved in either the preparation or distribution of this letter accepts any contractual, tortious, or any other form of liability for its contents or for any consequences arising from its use.

BUSINESS MATTERS is prepared bimonthly by The Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants for the clients of its members.

Richard Fulcher, CA – Author; Patricia Adamson, M.A., M.I.St. – CICA Editor.