A sample text widget

Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.

Might Have Missed List (07/17/11)

Gub doo gia bee? (Language Log)

[This post is chock full of all sorts of wonderful things going wrong during a series of presentations at an academic conference. This brief passage represents just a sliver of a very entertaining story]

And the other problem was that, impelled by some irresistible psychological imperative (I saw this later with several other speakers), he instinctively pointed the remote projection controller at the screen, desperately trying to get it to respond. But the computer he should have been pointing the remote at was ten or fifteen yards away on a table in a totally different direction. It was just too counterintuitive to turn 180 degrees away from the screen, so his back was toward it, in order to change the screen image. We humans are simple mammals, and we imagine that what we are focusing on is where the action is. So his clicking away with the remote was not being detected by the computer, and even if it had been detected, he would have had no idea whether anything had happened to the screen as a result.

Presentation Tip: First Impressions Matter (Professionally Speaking…)

Be prepared, with AV equipment checked, handouts sorted and slides ready. If you seem disorganized and rattled over logistics, your audience may assume that your presentation will be equally disorganized.

How to recognize someone for their service to an organization when they can’t be present in person (Conferences That Work)

  • A week before the event, Nancy and I set up a test call with me calling from the laptop I would be using at the conference. It was good we did this, because it took a while to get Nancy’s camera working. We arranged for her to start Skype when she arrived at work, thirty minutes before we would start the recognition ceremony.

  • About twenty minutes before the call, Nancy was not showing up as connected on Skype. I called her from my cell and she assured me Skype was running. I restarted Skype on my machine & this time she appeared. Phew! During the next few minutes, I muted our audio while the audience assembled.

 

You can’t present…

if you can’t get to the venue.

USA Today: Lost your travel documents? How to avoid being grounded.

Living Room

Dr. Jim Anderson, (The Accidental Communicator), reminds us that controlling the room is much better then letting the room control your presentation.

I’ll bet that you didn’t know that the next time that you give a speech, the room is going to be actively conspiring against you! Yep, it’s true – no matter how cozy and inviting the room that you are going to be speaking in may appear, it is actually working against you. This room has chewed up and spit out tougher speakers than you – what makes you think that you’ll do any better?

It’s absolutely crucial that you get into the room where you will be presenting, well in advance of when you will actually be presenting in it. Showing up 5 minutes before you’re supposed to go on is asking for disaster.

If you only read one thing this week...

make sure it’s “The Last One Percent that Kills You” by Dan Pallotta. A huge percentage of the all the presentation mishaps and disasters written about on this blog in the last three years could have been avoided by adhearance to the principles it outlines.

They assured us that they had a flat screen TV that would accommodate the slide show. I arrived an hour before the party to set up. Sure enough, the TV was there, but the input jacks were inaccessible. They were on the back of the TV, and it was bolted to the wall. I wasn’t until the party was nearly over that we learned that we could access the input jacks through an outlet in the floor.

For example, I’ve seen more charity events than I can count at which expensive banners get produced but no one has thought about the last step — how they’re going to be rigged. People think they’ll figure it out when they get there. But 40 mile-an-hour winds require a little more thought than that. The work of a branding company, a graphic design firm, and a banner production company are all thwarted because the banner can’t be hung.

We could chock it all up to the fact that accidents happen, but I think that does a disservice to accidents. The last 1% gets overlooked because of a lack of rigor in communication. We play fast and loose with language. Here are a few things we can do to prevent our efforts from being upended:

  • Beware the tacit agreement. If someone says something that doesn’t make any sense to you, don’t politely nod, pretend that you understand, and let it go. If you don’t understand what they’re talking about, there’s a damned good chance they don’t either. We’ve all experienced a thousand conversations in which neither of us understood what was just said, but we both just let it go and implicitly hope for the best. Don’t be reticent. Speak up.

He continues with five more suggestions that are even more useful (Develop a Pavlovian reaction to the words “I think”, Have multiple conversations about the same thing, Fill in the blanks, Speak like an air-traffic controller, Visualize disaster).

I can’t say enough about this article. It should be taped to every cubical and office wall in the world.

Elevator pitch?

Here’s a good example of Principle #2: Any rational response to “What’s the worse that can happen?” is most likely wrong.

I was meeting my prospective client on the 37th floor. The elevator was crowded, but by the time we got close to my floor, I was the last person on. I had a weird feeling. Then the lights went out and the thing started dropping. The elevator stopped after it went down about 10 floors, and the doors opened and I got out.

People were milling around and I was told there was a malfunction. No kidding. Apparently, a fire alarm was triggered, and that was supposed to send the elevators down at a slow pace. This one just happened to drop more quickly.

I got back on the elevator, believe it or not, and went to my appointment to make my presentation. I didn’t tell the prospective client what happened, but he could tell something was wrong. I eventually did get his business. (Full story on NY Times)

Hat tip to Denise Graveline of The Eloquent Woman

There is no magic button…

In a recent blog post, Pat Ahaesy used three scenarios to illustrate the idea that a lot of production disasters can be avoided through good communication.

Things that sound so simple, but done on the fly due to poor communication can be costly. Things that sound so simple, and done without communicating  in advance to your producer can either not happen as you envision or not happen at all

Some examples of “simple” that could be a disaster, but can be avoided with good communication:

  1. Planner wants stage set for 4 person panel with all panelists center stage on high stools and moderator at a lectern, stage right.  During chats with another planner, the decision is for the panelists to be seated on two couches on a diagonal. They will omit the lectern and have moderator seated on a chair. The lighting designer and your producer haven’t been told of this change. Of course, the different seating needs to be sourced quickly and the lighting designer has to re-focus his lighting. Much stress and potential errors could occur.

I think we’d all agree completely that good, early communication is crucial to avoid disaster. Why it’s so difficult?

Ahaesy attributes it to budget concerns:

Sometimes management and/or procurement feel that contracting production early in the planning stages can cost more money.

I’m not sure that there’s really that much thought being put into. My guess is that a profound lack of communication is often caused by what I like to think of as the Magic Button Assumption. Professionals that inhabit one area of expertise often assume professionals that inhabit another have a magic button that allows them to make anything that needs to happen happen with no fuss, no muss and no preparation or planning. The funny part is that any they would find any suggestion that they possess a magic button of their own too ridiculous for words.

The reasons a client might be making this assumption are many and it might be interesting to talk about them in future posts. The most obvious is that clients often don’t really understand what it is we do and how the tools we use work.

The more I think about it the more it seems that this phenomenon needs to be part The Principles. It also needs to be explored through the discussion of real life examples. I’ll be tracking some down from my own experience and I would really appreciate it of you would be willing to share your own stories. Feel free to put them in a comment to this post or let me know if you would like to do a guest post.

Or maybe it’s so mundane and ubiquitous it’s not worth discussing at all. One way or the other please weigh in and let us know what you think.

Tag Team

All the recent hubbub surrounding the possible demise of the Delicious social bookmarking service inspired me to get serious and consolidate/organize several years worth of bookmarks scattered across all over the place. The biggest payoff is that I’m discovering a bunch of stuff I never got around to posting. Here’s an oldie but a goody that illustrates an interesting way to deal with a no-show speaker or any other sudden, unexpected lack of content.

The room was already filling up, and the other session slotted that morning wasn’t nearly as popular – virtually everyone was attending that session. The speaker wasn’t going to be able to give the presentation – no problem, I thought, and I told Jennifer to go and get the slides from the sick speaker, and I would volunteer to give the presentation. Now at this time I was still strictly a Notes client developer, and I had done very little Domino development at all. Jennifer contacted the speaker to get the slides, and that’s when the hammer fell – he didn’t have a slide deck for the presentation. Nothing.

Oh crap.

You can read the whole story here.

Might Have Missed List (12/19/10)

Make A Living Writing — Things I Learned During Webinar Fail

Going with a new platform is risky. Anne and I really wanted to start with a free platform because we didn’t know how many tickets we’d sell. But Freebinar had a fatal flaw — it just happened to have a massive dial-in phone line failure at the time of our Webinar. None of us could get on the call. They fixed it right after we finished. So…that didn’t help, and caused about a 12-minute start delay while we tried to figure out a solution.

No matter how many things you nail down, there’ll be one thing you don’t. Years ago, an engineer told me happiness is redundant systems. I took many precations — I had Comcast out to doublecheck my connection the day before. I used a hard-wired mouse instead of my usual battery-powered wireless one. But we still neglected to do one thing that might have saved us — we could have gotten Anne another Freebinar account, with another phone number. That would have given us another shot at staying live.

Backstage at BackstageJobs —Don’t surprise your crew

Honestly, what reason could anyone have for not telling the the crew about these things in advance?  What good does it do to hold onto this information?  Assuming they “can just do it” falls along the lines of “theatre is magic.”  Theatre is magical: to experience.  But we’re not using magic to create it, we’re using plans, schedules, computers, gravity, acoustics, and timed choreography (yes, backstage).  Throwing a sudden change into this can be a problem, but throwing a planned change at us suddenly makes us mad.  Why?  Because if we had known about it, we could have done it better.

The Weekly Might Have Missed List (09/19/10)

associationTECH — Tech the Mic…Tech 1…Tech 2…Tech Tech Tech

It seems absurd the amount of preparation that goes into a session only to have the session falter at the end because of an AV situation that could easily have been avoided. A great example is a session I went to about using video for associations. Great information and examples were shared there, but the first presenter kept struggling with a slow connection whenever she wanted to play a video. The first couple of times I felt sorry for her, but after that I grew annoyed. Why didn’t she have a backup plan for something as finicky as video? Why didn’t she have some videos stored directly on her laptop, so she didn’t have to rely on the internet? Had she checked her connection and the buffering time before the presentation?

Life in the Corporate Theater — Let the Games Begin (Dispatch from Moscow)

We immediately decided to have the AV Vendor show us all of the equipment so that we wouldn’t have any surprises as 7:00 pm.

To start off, we requested a 16 channel mixer, with a minimum of 10 XLR inputs. They provided a 12 channel mixer with 8 XLR Inputs. We requested a minimum of 4 channels of graphic equalizers, and they provided 1 channel. We asked about the wireless microphones, and fortunately, the 5 microphones we requested were there, all thrown kinda loosely in a case. They informed us that they had  “Madonna” mics and we asked if they had regular Lavalier mics. They said they did, but that the “Madonna” mics worked much better. We told them that we understood that, but that the presenters would never wear a Madonna style headset mic. It turns out that the Lav mics are omni directional, and I am going to have to struggle against feed back for sure.

Next they showed us the video switcher, and while it was a lot closer to being right than the DJ Mixer that they gave us in St Petersburg, it was only a two channel input switcher and we need four channels.

We asked about cables for everything and while they may have brought enough for what they thought we would need, it was clear that they underestimated what we really needed and we had to make a quick inventory on paper of what we wanted.

ReadyTalk — Conference Blunder Contest (The blunder with the most votes winds two round trip airline tickets)

We had just released our the 3.0 version of our product and had a showcase webinar. It was our largest webinar ever with 1023 people on the line. After telling everyone we would begin in just a couple minutes our CTO left his office for some water and locked himself out. He tried looking for a key and attempted to jimmy the door open, but no good. So in his best Starsky and Hutch impersonation he body slammed the door to break it down. We moved to bigger offices a month ago and that door cost us $800 to replace!

Promiscuous Sticks

©iStockphoto.com/belknap

Last weekend, veteran AV pro Rick Pillars,  a frequent contributor to BML and owner of It’s a Rap Productions, started a Facebook post with these dreadful words: “So, a bad thing happened yesterday. I plugged my USB drive into the show computer.”

I asked Rick if I could use the brief but instructive story he related. He was kind enough to send me this greatly expand version so I could share it with you here:

Recently I was on showsite as a Video Engineer/Graphics Operator. I put my thumbdrive in what I was going to use as the primary graphics source so that I could load up some powerpoint grid slides. I routinely use those slides to properly align the projectors. It proved very difficult to do. It turned out that my thumbdrive at some point picked up a virus. I plugged in two other thumbdrives I had that had the grid slides on them. All I ended up doing was infecting them as well. At the time, I was unaware that a virus was a problem.

It was about that time that the client came and handed me the thumbdrive with all the presentations on it. Guess what happened. If you guessed that her thumbdrive was infected then you guessed correctly. Here are some of the symptoms. It turns the drive into a folder. Then it won’t open the folder.

Here’s something else the virus does. It installs a trojan virus. Like the Trojan horse in the myth, this particular virus is tailored to get you, the user, to put something into your camp/computer and then insert it’s own commands. A trojan will allow the hacker to access your computer and utilize it for whatever they choose to do. They can access files. If your computer is part of a trusted network they can access and infect the rest of the computers on that network. They can make your computer do stuff. Turn on the video camera without you knowing about it? Sure. What they normally do is fill up your hard drive with illegal programs and music and install an FTP server for others to log into for downloading. Another common practice is to create what is known as a BOT net. Your computer would be one of several thousand BOTs in the net. Then they would use it and the others to attack web sites with the intention of bringing that sites servers. It’s called a Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS). The servers get hit so fast and furious that it slows them down until they just grind to a halt. Websites such as Ebay, Amazon, CNN, and others have all been attacked like this. Most of them quite successfully. It is estimated that those companies lost potential tens of millions in revenue. Your trojan infected computer would be just one of many involved in the attack. All without your knowledge.

So, back to the thumbdrive aspect. We use them all the time in the meetings industry. They are everywhere. Every presenter usually has their presentations loaded on one. If their drive is infected, it will infect your computer. If your computer already has the virus, it will infect every drive after that. Thus spreading that particular virus. How can you tell? If you go into folder options and check off the ticks that Hide System Files and Hide normal File Extensions and then look at the drives folder. If you see a file that says autorun.inf and a new additional folder that wasn’t there before, then you are infected more than likely. Mine said autoRUN.inf and the folder labeled cold. Inside the folder was the virus and it was labeled hott. The autorun file tells your computer how and what to do with the virus. If you delete the files off the thumbdrive and even format the drive, the infected computer will automatically re-infect the drive. If you get rid of the virus on your computer, the drive will automatically re-infect it.

One possible solution was that you could go into the group policy and turn off the autoplay feature. This is the feature where as soon as you plug something into a USB port and something in the disk drive, the computer automatically indexes what’s on it and opens it up for you. Then you go thru certain steps to use Windows Explorer to access the drive. Unfortunately, lately the virus writers have caught onto that and have amended the autorun file to also follow the instruction if they are opened that way as well. The security experts at the leading anti-virus companies are still working on a solution. Do a google search for USB viruses like I did and you will find out what I did.

What can we do? Stop dropping our thumbdrive into every computer drive that we see. Email whatever it is we need on the other computer. Why have a thumbdrive anymore you ask? Exactly the question I ask myself everytime I try and cleanse these four thumbdrives. My 32GB, 16GB, and 4GB drive. Plus, the client just told me to keep her brand new 4GB drive since I infected it.

Rick is right when he says thumbdrives are everywhere in our industry. My response to his post on Facebook was, “That’s pretty scary. How often do we do a job that doesn’t involve promiscuous sticks?” Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s all that easy to reduce their use. Many of the clients I’ve worked with were subjected to draconian restrictions on the size of email attachments they could send. And what do you do when the Wi-Fi in the hotel meeting rooms isn’t up to the task. Besides, I’m not sure how comfortable I would be dropping the computer/corporate equivalent of “no glove, no love” on a client.

I plugged my USB drive into the show computer.