Murphy's Law states: "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong." This is especially true and especially painful when there is an audience involved.

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This blog was active from April, 2008 to July 2012.
It is no longer being updated but will continue to be maintained for reference purposes.

Recovery Room

In his post “How To Recover From A Speaking FAIL,” Tom Webster recounts a typical story of hardware failure, offers some thoughtful recovery advice, and still manages to coin my new favorite neologism: “laptopocalypse”.

I gave a keynote right before lunch on how to think about data, and I was rolling right along when all of a sudden, exactly halfway through, my MacBook Pro crashed. Hard. Spinning-beach-ball-of-death hard. With 45 slides left to go. I won’t say I was “unfazed” but I hope I was unflappable. I’ve been standing up in front of clients and audiences for over 15 years, and let me tell you–something always happens, especially when you are doing client presentations, where you don’t necessarily have any support or backup.

I was humbled and grateful for all of the positive tweets I received during the speech for how I handled the laptopocalypse (I finished the story from the section I was on and took a few questions while I put a backup laptop online and got my slides off a USB stick) but it certainly wasn’t my natural reserves of cool that got me through it. It was training and practice. Learned behaviors. Since this sort of thing is bound to happen to you if you present in any capacity, I thought it might be useful to share exactly

And here’s another great point:

I will admit to being a little “nonplussed” when I see a speaker have a tech fail and then call for A/V because they are “no good with these things.”

Entire Content

David Craig’s post “Dealing with Tech Failure” includes, along with a couple other good tips,  a reminder of what it really requires to be completely prepared for video failure during your presentation.:

Video in a presentation is a tricky proposition even if everything works properly. Anything more than a short clip gets tedious for the audience in a hurry. But if you insist on including video in your presentation, be ready to describe the entire content of the video if it doesn’t play. That’s what TV newscasters have done for decades when the film, the tape or a live feed doesn’t work.

Might want to give some more thought to how important, how critical, that flashy piece of video really is to making your point.

Bookmarked: Volvo auto brake fails during demo

Volvo auto brake fails during demo – "Volvo's major new safety feature failed in embarrassing fashion during a press presentation. Called 'Collision Warning with Auto Brake', the technology is supposed to automatically apply the brakes if cameras sense an imminent crash. Unfortunately, the technology broke down in front of a group of journalists at a presentation in Sweden. And sadly for Volvo, some of them were armed with camera phones."

Bookmarked: Lights Go Out On Craig Ferguson (Blog Stage)

Lights Go Out On Craig Ferguson (Blog Stage) – Last night, high winds swept through Los Angeles, disrupting electricity in the city — including the television studio where comedian Craig Ferguson was busy filming The Late Late Show. [Ever lose electricity during a presentation? In addition to the general disruption it causes, power failures can start a cascade of other problems. For instance, projector lamps don't react well to being turned of suddenly with out without competing their cooling cycle. Unfortunately, there's not much you can do about a building- or block-wide power failure. Just be sure the electrical service you request from the venue is adequate to the equipment you will be using so you don't cause an outage in the room you're working in.]

Hypotheticals

gremlinHow about two quick questions, just for the fun of it…

(okay the first one’s a little boring)

Would you rather give a presentation with your slides but not your speaker notes or have your notes but not your slides?

(the second has a little more “zing“)

You’re at the crossroads, it’s midnight, the contract has been unrolled, the pen is ready and it’s time to make the deal.

Carry a spare for EVERY piece of equipment you normally use to do a meeting and the king of the AV gremlins guarantees that you will never, ever have to use them.

In other words, would you be willing to haul around two of everything you typically bring with you knowing you will never need to use the backup because nothing will ever fail? You would propitiate the gremlins by being perfectly prepared to deal with them. Your plan B could no longer involve a quick run to the Best Buy or renting something from the hotel.

(Does that sound too much like a Twilight Zone episode?)

I think that for most people, answer to the second question would really depend on what kind of meetings they were doing and what was at stake. I wonder what offer the gremlins would make someone if they already carried two of everything.

How about you? Would you go with the slides or the notes? Would you make the deal or take your chances?

Teachers that firmly believe in corporal punishment

It’s not like I was out there searching or anything but I found a quote that could be the official motto for Breaking Murphy’s Law:

Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.

~Eleanor Roosevelt

eleanorrooseveltPretty good, isn’t it. I came across it on Bob Sutton’s blog Work MattersThe post it’s from contrasts the philosophy that informs Eleanor’s quote with the idea that your own failures are the best teachers. Your failures are the teachers that smack your knuckles really hard with the ruler. Your failures are the teachers that firmly believe in corporal punishment.

I agree that personal failures are very good at teaching important lessons in a way that makes them difficult to forget. The only problem is there’s usually only one person in the classroom.

Learn from your mistakes, but also be generous and share them so others can learn from what you went through.

I know, I know, easier said than done. Just try to remember you could be saving someone else from geting their knuckles rapped.