Don’t panic!


Mistakes are opportunities to learn. Here is a lesson I learned the other day.

I was organising and presenting at an event in the performance space of a local radio station. The event was going to be streamed and broadcast live. Two other presenters were going to contribute to the event using the Bettakultcha format (twenty slides that roll over automatically every fifteen seconds).

I’d put all the presentations on one file and checked the timings – at home. The plan was to use my laptop as the machine that generated the slides and also to use it as a monitor for the presenters.

As a backup, I transferred the file over the internet to the venue the day before as well as copying it onto a memory stick.

On the night of the event I arrived at the venue to set up. It turned out a hdmi connection was required for the projector and my laptop didn’t have one. The technician decided to use his laptop instead and the file was copied onto that via the memory stick.

As I quickly checked the file on his machine I noticed two slides that weren’t displaying properly  so the technician fiddled with them until they were. I re-checked the file and was happy with how they displayed.

My presentation was first and I started my slide set with a remote that I carried. I delivered my practiced lines and waited for the slide to change automatically. It didn’t.

I was live on air and my slides weren’t progressing as planned. As my mouth continued to produce hesitant sounds of prevarication, my mind was racing as it considered the possible options.

My instinct was to stop presenting and start again after I had fixed the file but as we were live I realised that wouldn’t be an ideal option as it would take too long. Slowly, (I’m sure in reality the time was only a couple of seconds but it always feels like it’s much longer) my mind decided that as I was holding the remote I could advance the slides manually. It also concluded that I shouldn’t worry if the intervals weren’t exactly fifteen seconds as the audience wouldn’t be listening with stopwatches in hand, they just wanted an interesting presentation.

Eventually I arrived at the decision to carry on with the presentation and manually advance the slides with the remote. As I had thoroughly practiced the presentation I knew where the slide change should take place in relation to my vocal delivery.

After three or four slides I satisfied myself that I had control of the situation again and from then on I devoted all my energies to the presentation.

When I finished, the event continued so I didn’t have time to check what had happened to the file and I was anxious about the other two presentations that were to take place later.

As it happened, the middle presentation worked perfectly and the slides advanced automatically but the third presentation had the same problem as mine and didn’t change automatically. Fortunately I still held the remote as I sat in the audience section so I was able to advance the slides after an approximate count of fifteen seconds in my head. The presenter wasn’t even aware that anything was amiss.

I discovered later that the two slides that were edited affected the slide transition instruction in each of the presentations that they appeared in even though the technician hadn’t been in any of the transition menus. This was a new discovery for me so the lesson I learned here was that once a file has been safely transferred onto different technology, the entire file needs to be checked for crucial operations.

The other lesson is, don’t panic!