I had a disastrous presentation last week. The webex was ready and working when right before the presentation was to begin, the computer completely froze. Next steps involved restarting by yanking the laptop battery, yanking my other laptop from its docking station, and trying to get one of three computers back on the webex. We ultimately had to email a file to all participants, delivering an originally designed interactive presentation on using Twitter from a 4-to-a-slide pdf, after a 20 minute late start.


Venting my frustration that evening, my niece, who signed up for Brainzooming via email last year, reminded me of the recent column about envisioning potential problems and being ready to wing it.

Great point Valerie! Arghhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

The presentation failure scenarios I had imagined focused on webex problems, so I got there early to ensure people could to see the computer desktop on the webex. What I hadn’t anticipated was the computer freezing. While there was a nearly-current version of the presentation on a USB drive, anticipating the computer failing would have led to sending the presentation upfront with another computer ready to go.

Under stress, there wasn’t time for problem diagnosis; the only alternative was implementing multiple potential solutions. Not until afterward did the problem’s source occur to me: the LCD projector had a long ago history of jamming computers with USB-based clickers. The problem hadn’t occurred in years, and I’d forgotten about it.

So let me amend the first bullet in the previous post’s advice:

  • Invest a little effort ahead of time imagining what complete system failure scenarios could develop. Really go for it – if Armageddon were taking place before a presentation, could you still get things up and running on time? And what’s the backup to the alternative?

There, that feels better. Maybe I’ll be better prepared next time. – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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5 Responses to “Careful What You Write and Who Reads It”

  1. Leslie says:

    Isn't technology grand? 🙂 I daresay it would be impossible to imagine ALL the scenarios that could lead to failure, but I'll bet you won't soon forget this one! We definitely learn a lot from our failures.

  2. Dave J. says:

    I always get frustrated when I see our 'final test' department running our products with wires loose and doors open … run the damn thing as if you are the customer.

    And I'll get frustrated with myself for doing what you did … not testing the set-up in the final configuration. Don't just imagine the possible failures, test for them.

  3. Mike Brown says:

    Thanks Leslie and Dave for contributing to Brainzooming.

    When I did a presentation for much of the same audience the next week, I had two computers both loaded with the presentation ready to go. And if need be, I could have done it without the Powerpoint on an easel and paper.

  4. Jim Joseph says:

    I feel for you, Mike.  As you saw on my blog post, just had my own version yesterday.  Plan for the worst case, right?  And then a nuclear explosion!  Jim.


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