One of the aspects of Social Connections that I meant to include in my blog post summary but forgot was the issues around wifi access. No matter what a venue says about their readiness, it’s an aspect that I’m sure is virtually impossible for conference organisers to check or test beforehand. So if they say they can handle the number of attendees often connecting with multiple devices, I’m sure it’s something you just have to hope they really can handle. Social Connections wasn’t the first conference to be affected by this and I’m sure won’t be the last. The wifi was solid until the opening general session got really underway and suffered after that.

Usually for my demos I’m using a locally-installed Domino server or locally-installed Websphere Liberty server or some other environment where I have no real dependency on the internet. When you’re session covers cloud services like Watson Workspace, that dependency is unavoidable. So a critical issue with wifi meant having backup.

Thankfully my session was on Tuesday morning, so I had time to adapt. So while everyone else was at speed spensoring, I headed back to my hotel to record my demos so that, in a worst case scenario, I could just play those and talk over them. I’m glad I did, because I needed to. My code posted to Watson Workspace, but then the wifi dropped. I quickly switched over to the video with the minimum fuss and continued to use those for the rest of the session. I even managed to keep what I was saying in sync with the timing of the videos.

It’s also a useful approach if you’re live-coding during a session. I haven’t made videos before, but I always do several run-throughs so in the future I’ll be recording those just in case. Other options I’ve used in the past are to use source control or a VM with snapshots, so I can more quickly switch to a working version at any particular step if I screw things up. When I’ve had XPages that I’ll be modifying during a session I’ve often also had finalised versions, so if it doesn’t work, I can quickly compare the completed and in-progress versions and identify any differences. Thankfully I’ve never had a laptop completely die during a session, although I have had a blue screen of death shortly before a session and had to completely restart my laptop and open up all the various apps again – it was a Show and Tell, so there was a lot to start up! Thankfully if there’s a lot to start up I tend to have a script of everything that’s needed and all URLs I want to have open. But I also have everything backed up to Dropbox so, in a worst case scenario, I still have a working copy of my slides that can be used.

After all, there’s no subsititute for preparation and planning.

3 thoughts on “A Warning Tale for Presenters”

  1. I always have my own internet connection with me using my mobile phone. Usually the network is good at venues even indoor so I can rely on that for the short period during the session.
    The version control during live coding is by far the smartest way I used before.
    I once also had everything up and running in a single VM so when the host system got a BSOD I had the VM still in the state I left it – depending on the VM system you are running (I used VirtualBox).

  2. I had a laptop freeze on me in such a way that it could not be restarted just before a session. I was offered an alternative; I hads my slides on a stick, but the replacement machine could neither read them nor be connected to the room projector. So I just did it blind, no slides, writing the agenda and topics I wanted to cover on the flipchart as aI went along. I missed just one item! The moral: however prepared you are, something might come out and bite. You need to be prepared for that, too.

    Mick Moignard

    1. Very true and I sometimes forget to save my slides as a PDF before the session. That increases the chances but, as you say, it still won’t work if the laptop doesn’t connect to the projector. iPad connectors are a good investment which I made a few years ago in the era of VGA connections from projectors. But of course most projectors are now HDMI. Thanks for the prompt.

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