April 16, 2008

That presentation was horrible!

Tonight I presented "What's new in VS2008 for ASP.NET" for our Heroes Happen Here Community Launch at CINNUG. From the start anything that could go wrong did go wrong. As my friend, Joe Wirtley, put it "I'm not going to lie to you, it was rough".

The presentation should have been a good one. The material was good. I was well prepared. I had a few planned funny comments (at least I thought they were funny). And the presentation was almost completely all demo with only spent about 3 minutes in slides, which I know techies love.

So how did it turn out so badly? Let me count the ways...

As I was sitting through the first presentation I thought to myself, "I don't remember putting my script in my laptop bag. I bet I left it sitting on my desk." A quick check of my bag confirmed my suspicion. This wasn't that big of a deal, though, because I knew the material and after running through it in my mind a couple of times I knew I'd be okay.

I had setup the presentation and demo on a Virtual PC. On my last dry run through the material I had made a couple of changes, putting some snippets in place in case I found myself running short on time and cleaning up a couple of things. I had all the right files and applications open, running, and setup exactly how I needed them. I did not think about saving my changes at that time (Stupid Error #1), but instead just left the VPC running. After finishing my prep before leaving the house I just closed the cover of my laptop, I didn't think I would need to shut everything down (Ignorant Error #1 - apparently VPC does not like hibernation at all, now I know). So a few minutes before my presentation was to start I lifted the lid laptop and was completely surprised to find the screen blank and my computer would not recover from hibernation. I had to shut it down, restart everything and hurriedly try to get everything setup. Luckily my VPC recognized the changes made earlier were not saved and asked me if I wanted to recover them. Whew, one major issue avoided, but that was not the end of it.

We were not able to get my laptop to work in "mirror mode" with the external video (the projectors). The external video would only work as an extension of my desktop - as a second monitor. This is exactly how I've given presentations in the past and it works well when only doing slides, but sucks for doing code/demos. After about five minutes we finally gave up trying to fix it. The solution was to sit with my back to the crowd while doing the demos so I could see the screens. Not good. Have you ever tried to use a huge screen sitting 12 feet up in the air for a monitor? Me neither. It sucked... bad. But we, me and my audience, fought through it.

Along with the video issues I also had some performance issues. A couple of times Visual Studio slowed to a crawl. It wasn't really too bad, but the 15 second stalls were too long for the dead silence that accompanied it and too short to throw out a joke or change the subject. About the time I would think to do so then it would start working again.

Finally I had a couple of other "phantom issues" with Visual Studio where I would try to set a value for a CSS style in the CSS Properties window and they just wouldn't stick. I checked to make sure I had the proper style and element selected and that did not seem to be the case. It just wouldn't work for some reason, even though I know I had done the exact same thing no more than two hours earlier. I probably overlooked something or did some steps out of sequence. Who knows, at that point I was starting to get a little frazzled.

I think we started out good, things got a little funky during the middle of the presentation, but after that I recovered a bit, had a couple of successful demos and everything ended on a decent note.

Overall, it didn't turn out as badly as it could have. I think I did a pretty good job considering the circumstances. Joe said "I don't think you lost anybody, people laughed at your jokes, and I'm sure everybody learned something." I agree. Between laughing at my jokes or laughing at my misfortunes, I'm sure everyone had a good time.

I think I'll come away a better presenter, or at least having more confidence, because of the mess. I really didn't get frazzled too badly, I kept on truckin', and to tell you the truth - I never felt any nervousness or anxiousness at any point from the time I stood up to introduce myself to the time I finished. That was new to me, I've always had some level of nervous discomfort before. I swear that I felt more anxious this afternoon doing my practice runs than I did at any time during the real thing.

This story may sound like a nightmare to some of you, but to me it was more like a scary amusement park ride: a bit horrifying while you're on it, but once you finish you get that rush of adrenaline and feel some satisfaction, pride and thankfulness for having gotten through it. But it's definitely not something that you'd want to face again anytime soon!

I hope you don't think I'm a weirdo, but I have to admit that it was fun. I/We have been laughing all night since I finished up. Really, honestly, it was fun. If that was the worst presentation that I ever give, I'll consider myself lucky.

To anyone who was "lucky" enough to attend my presentation tonight. Please don't judge me on this one example. Perhaps I can get a Mulligan? I'll try to make it up to you this weekend at the Central Ohio Day of .NET (CODODN) where I'll be presenting "SEO for ASP.NET Developers", a topic that I'm really excited about. I promise it will be much better. And hopefully you won't have to look at the back of my head the whole time. Not that my face is any better.

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  1.  avatar Leon says:

    I'm sure it wasn't THAT bad, Dan! I wish I could have been there but something had to give this week and for me it was CINNUG. Anyway, see you Saturday.

    Leon

  2.  avatar Jon Limjap says:

    Whew, I'm going to conduct this very same presentation in a few hours. Wish me luck, hope I don't get through it as rough as you did. :)

  3.  avatar Joe Wirtley says:

    Great post Dan. Hopefully it will give presenters hope that you can still do a good presentation in spite of some bumps in the road.  I hope never to run into the kinds of things you did, but if I do, I hope I handle it as well as you did.

  4.  avatar Matt Brewer says:

    Well Dan, I learned something... if thats any consolation.  I agree with Joe, you handled the issues very well.  And like they say, "What does not kill you makes you stronger"  I'm looking forward to the next one!

  5. Thanks, Matt.

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