What to do when the demo goes bad

ABGNMSunrise

An Early Morning sunrise at SQL Saturday 271

This weekend I attended and spoke at SQL Saturday #271 in Albuquerque, NM.  This was my first time speaking outside my own events so it was a new experience for me.  I spent some time in the speaker room during the morning getting my computer setup for the presentation later that day.

I started out with my presentation and slides and everything was going well. Very interactive group (I like questions throughout the session) and lots of good discussion.  I only had about 60 minutes worth of content in a 75 minute session so I knew I had to get some good questions going.  I started into my demo and was showing some of the key points and then started on my Import using SQOOP.  It started up just fine and then just stopped on one step.  Not only did it stop my whole computer froze.  I thought for sure I was going to see a BSOD or it was just going to shut down.  Luckily I was able to handle this and continue the presentation without it causing too much damage. I didn’t get to show the process I originally wanted to show but I was able to explain and go over with the audience all the pieces I still needed.

This got me thinking about some key things you need to do WHEN the demo goes bad.  It is not a matter of IF but when. Sooner or later you will have it fail on you.

Be calm and cool!

Be calm and cool!

When things go bad!

  1.  Don’t Panic!  Apologize for the issue and keep moving with the presentation work on the next step.  Letting it throw off your focus or send you down a tangent will not end well.
  2. Fix it, if it is a quick fix then take a quick 2-3 minutes to resolve it.  See next point about communicating if you are fixing something.
  3. Keep communicating.  The last thing you want is a long silence in the presentation while you fight your demo issues.  Ask more questions of the audience or find out how things have gone so far.
  4. Don’t apologize too much.  I actually failed this one in my presentation.  Apologizing over and over isn’t going to change anything.  Apologize for the issue move forward and keep going.

Some ways to avoid the problem.

  1.  Have a backup, this can be easy for some things and hard for others.
  2. The backup can be static content/hidden slides with images that you can show what the demo is supposed to be doing.
  3. Test and re-test your demo’s many times.  Even if you have presented this 100 times testing the morning before is a good idea.  ( I didn’t and look what happened to me)

These are just my simple suggestions and I would love to hear if you have additional suggestions as well.

Overall I received good marks on the presentation and my fellow speakers said I handled the issue well some suggested just removing that part of the demo from the presentation.  This is something I’m considering but I’m also working on solutions to fix the problem so that I can avoid it in the future.

I hope future demos for you go well but in case they don’t keep these things in mind and it may make the pain a little less!

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