T-SQL Tuesday: Presentation Disasters
Welcome back for another T-SQL Tuesday. This month's edition is hosted by Kerry Tyler (b|t), and he asks participants to "Tell... us all... about something recently that broke or went wrong, and what it took to fix it."
Although I have several years of presenting experience now, I still have one critical fear: hardware and audio/visual failures. I am confident that I can handle off-topic questions, time management, hecklers, and other presentation-related challenges, even demo failure. But hardware and A/V issues are the one thing that I still fear because they're out of my hands to resolve. Projector issues and laptop failure rank among the most difficult to remedy quickly.
In May 2020, I had the honor of presenting at the GroupBy conference. It was my first time being accepted to GroupBy, so I wanted everything to go smoothly! And things were going smoothly until close to the end of the session, when my headset failed. GroupBy was recorded, so we can relive the cringe-worthy moment together! You can watch me in the upper-right corner as I realize my headset has died and I try to recover.
In full disclosure, I actually knew this was going to happen. About 10 minutes prior, I heard words no virtual presenter ever wants to hear...
"(headset) battery level, critical"
I felt like I was holding a ticking time bomb without knowing how much time is left! When I received the warning, I was in the middle of presenting, so I had to press on while trying to think of a contingency plan. I remembered that my Logitech webcam has a fairly decent microphone, so I figured I'd just switch to that.
But other possibilities also ran through my mind. Where was my headset's audio cable, so I wouldn't need battery power? I wasn't sure, and it would take too long to find it. Where were my other headsets? Upstairs in a completely different room; I suppose I could run and grab them if absolutely necessary. I could try the laptop's built-in mic, but I knew that would just result in terrible audio, so I decided that would be my final option.
Keep in mind, I'm having all of these thoughts in the blink of an eye, while trying to still present my content and make sure my audience was oblivious to my disaster planning!
When it came time to switch from my headset, I did fumble a bit because I was not familiar with Zoom and where the audio controls were. But, because I had a plan in my head, I was able to resume with only 1 minute of downtime.
In hindsight, my personal paranoia and fear about A/V issues actually helped me resolve my issues quickly. Because I've dwelled on this fear for a while, I've also considered contingency plans and what other colleagues have done to mitigate their own disasters. I learned from them and applied my own plans, which enabled me to think on my feet quickly, come up with a hasty plan, and execute when I had to shortly thereafter.
Learning from others is why this particular story came to mind for this T-SQL Tuesday. Learn from my experience, as I've learned from others.