Monday, March 08, 2010


It's thankfully a rare affliction, but over the years, I've heard of many cases. For speakers and presenters, Presentationitis is a terrible condition that could be described this way: you test your microphones, projector, software and hardware - probably multiple times - and then right before the presentation (seminar or class) is about to start something goes wrong. It's happened to me a few times, it's happened to Scott Kelby, and I'm sure it's happened to many other speakers.

Last Friday in LA I had another case. Two hours before the seminar we were testing audio and it was great. Then we turned a microphone back on and had a buzz that just would not go away. We changed mics, batteries, cables, you name it and still no fix. So the decision was made to bring in a different sound system. Cool - at least we discovered this before the day started.

Then we tested my laptop, connected it to the projector... all good. I'm such a worry wart that I even disconnected and reconnected several times to make sure it worked fine each time. In part I did this because of a rare but known problem that can occur when you have a Wacom tablet connected and then connect to a projector. After multiple tests, everything was a go.

Fast forward to moments before the seminar was to begin and we switched the cable from one laptop to mine and...nothing. Black screen with no sign of life. The laptop did not refresh, the video connection was not made, nothing. Disconnect the tablet? Nothing. Force a restart? Nothing. Panic a little? Yes. After several minutes of trying everything and imploring my laptop to work, it finally did, Phew. Except for one thing: when I moved my pen on the tablet, it jumped around the screen like crazy. Oh, my tablet isn't configured probably - no problem, I'll just pop into the settings and fix it. Nope.

So, I taught the first two classes using the trackpad on my laptop. Now, I'm pretty good with my trackpad, but it was definitely a challenge. Hopefully, it was not obvious to the class (I only mentioned my problem after I fixed it at lunch time).

Why am I telling you all this? So that the next time you're watching a presenter struggle with some kind of technical difficulty, you'll realize that they probably tested everything, but were hit with a sudden unexpected case of Presentationitis.

(Thanks to all the wonderful people who came to my seminar Friday - I had a blast, despite the glitches)

[EDIT: Here's a quick summary and some great pics from Alan Hess. Thanks Alan!]


Ian Pack said...

Dave you have my sympathy. Presentationitis is also known as "demonstration mode". Early on in my career I was an AV technician working with video projectors the size of a large suitcase and three lenses each the size of dinner plates! You'd check and double check everything, then as the the presentation started, or sometime in when the presenter was just getting comfortable, the worst would happen;-( Ouch! The only way to avoid the situation is to avoid technology...

. said...

reporting from row 2, we never would have noticed, except you mentioned it

Dawn @ My Home Sweet Home said...

I always have problems, too. The first live conference I did, the problem was no Mac compatible cables to plug my laptop to projector. I had to export my keynote file as a powerpoint file and run it on an audience member's PC. It was ugly and formatted wrong.

The next day I logged into webinar-style software and we streamed my presentation through someone's PC again. At least I was able to use my own computer.

At BlissDom, the Mac cords worked with the projector before we started, but not when needed, and then whenever I would try to export an image from LR to PS, it would disappear.

I feel your pain. You were dealing with a much bigger audience. Good job handling it with grace.

Tye Durbin said...

My experience with this is checking that the software version is what it is supposed to be and then the morning of the class the tech guys decide to "upgrade" to a newer version of the software... none of your handouts are current, none of your notes are current, and you are fumbling through because in this version they decided to "move" or "remove" buttons and options... LOL! Definitely can be frustrating, thanX for sharing!

Ken Toney said...

Dave, sure am glad it was working in Nashville last year when I saw ya! I drove 5 hours to get there and a friend of mine sings at Tootsies. I went by and photographed her while she was singing (she is good) for her parents who live in my town. Well that evening I went across the river to shoot a pano of Nashville (on my blog heading) and I forgot about those 2 photos and formatted my card (before shooting pano). We were seaving the next morning. Stuff happens, I guess I'll get her next time. I have seen speakers get help from the audience when these things happen, and they happen with power point a lot!

Marco said...

Having been an AV-technician myself for a couple of years I can tell you it's true. It happens.

But I found that when it happens, it's more often to people who think they know what they're doing, but they don't. And they hardly test.
Sound OK. And when they start they tell the tech to start the CD, which the (A) never mentioned, so the tech didn't bring a CDplayer and (B) didn't hand over to the tech (at that point he/she would have known there was a problem and they would have tried to fix it.
Or they start a movie from their laptop, when no audioconnection was made from the laptop.

It's when it happens to professionals like you guys, who do a lot of presentations, that you can see the difference.
You know you've tested everything and you know you can work around it, so the audience often doesn't realize something's wrong unless you tell them.
You won't start blaming the techs (who are probably working real hard to solve the problem), but you make the best of it.

Hope it won't happen too much to you.