When computer people go to presentations

I'm sure it can't be, but it feels like every presentation, meeting or event I've ever been to has had some kind of technical failure that I've been asked to step in and fix.

I gotta tell you, it is wearing thin.

I pay my money, I go to the event like everyone else, then end up being outed as an IT guy and asked to fix whatever snafu has been created by a lack of preparation by someone else.

It isn't that I don't want to help, it that sometimes I can't help and it is me who ends up looking like the fool.

People don't remember or realise that a lack of preparation or forethought has caused this issue.

Sometimes what you've done, or haven't done, and what is missing cannot magically be materialised from thin air; missing cables, network connections where your files are and so on.

The attendees at the event just see that the supposed tech' guy can't fix the thing. "He must be shit".

When I run events I tell my presenters, performers and speakers that they must be prepared and, if they aren't sure they are 100% prepared, let me know so we can run a test and get prepared.

I encourage them to practice, test the actual equipment they are going to use, ask me about available equipment and tell me what they have so that as many potential problems can be addressed well before any guests start arriving.

There's an old saying that goes...

"A lack of preparation on your part does not constitute a crisis on my part"

But it ends up that way doesn't it? We all get lumbered with this kind of thing because "it is our job".

In a previous post here, I have lamented that being an IT person in the wild is worse than being a doctor. There's not an event or party I go to where I don't get pumped for information.

But when I work for myself and I am out and about after hours, I don't get paid for this sort of impromptu support...and then I don't get called inside work hours by those people because they already have the answers.

My wife used to consult to Microsoft in Australia at a time when Microsoft was copping a lot of crap about something, which doesn't narrow down the time-frame much I know.

Their Australian employees hated revealing who they worked for outside of work hours.

They'd be whinged to, pumped for information, shouted at and just generally harassed for because of some beef someone had with a Microsoft product from some point in history. And from my experience, they probably got crap from Apple users too just "because...".

So much so that Microsoft created a dedicated help line and gave their employees special business cards with words to the effect of "I'm off duty now but Microsoft would love to help you with your problem. Please call this number inside business hours to get free technical support....".

It allowed the employees to deflect the impersonal attacks, make the people more than happy, and get on with enjoying the event.

That's great for them, but my business is just me. If I hand out a card like that I'm just an arsehole...probably...and I don't make that much money to start giving away my work hours free of charge (more than I already do).

I doubt anyone will see this, but here goes;

If you are a presenter, speaker or performer here's a list of this you need to consider to ensure you'll be ready to run your presentation on the available technology:

  1. What device will be running the presentation? Your laptop, someone else's computer/laptop?

  2. Do you KNOW for a fact your presentation will run on these machines? If not, try it ASAP in case you have to find an alternate way to run the show.

  3. Does the target machine have the software on it to run the presentation?

  4. Have you packaged the presentation so that it can run independently?

  5. Is the target machine a government or otherwise restricted device that is likely to have problems accepting outside files and programs?

  6. Do you know what sort of projector will be showing the presentation?

  7. Is there even a data projector available at the destination? Will you be showing it on a TV?

  8. Does your presentation require sound?

  9. Do you know if there are working speakers available at the venue? Have you tested the volume to ensure everyone coming will hear what they need to hear? Can you bring your own speakers?

  10. Do you know what your video output is and what the data projectors available inputs are?

  11. Are the data projector inputs on the wall (for ceiling mounted projectors) and is the remote control present with fresh/working batteries?

  12. Do you have the right cable to get from your laptop to the data projector? Are you covered for a variety of video types; vga, HDMI, display port, DVI, RGB, etc.?

  13. Have you checked with the venue if early access, preferably at the latest the day before, can be obtained to test your set up and run your show?

  14. If you are running a Macbook you need to be better across the item above than PC people as you are likely to have a video output that most data projectors don't have a cable for.

  15. Do you have a print out of the presentation so that, in the worst case scenario, you can at least speak to your points and wave the pages at people?

  16. Have you asked if there is a technical person going to be present and if they are willing to help you get prepared and on the day of the event?

  17. Do you know where power sockets are at the venue? How many and whether extension leads and power boards are available?

  18. Is there in fact a screen to project on to? Does it pop down from the ceiling and is there a remote control or wall-mounted control panel for any of this stuff?

  19. Do you know where to turn the venue lights, audio and other facilities on and off? There's nothing worse than canned music or a constantly boiling urn that can't be killed running through your presentation.

  20. Do you need to sue some form of PA (public address) system at the venue? Do you or anyone else know how to make it work?

  21. Have you got power leads for all your devices? Don't assume laptop battery capacity will last the duration.

  22. Do you need and have internet access? Does the venue provide it or is it restricted in some way (common with Government facilities of one kind or another). Can you bring you own internet hotpot or use your phone?

  23. Do you need a laser pointer and/or some sort of clicker/slide-advancing gadget?

That's all I can think of for now. I'll add any other things I think of as applicable...or send me your suggestions.

Thanks and happy presenting.


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