What could possibly go wrong?

When I spoke at ACCU Belfast in November 2019 about lambdas during my talk several things went not as planned. I think this is a good opportunity to talk a little about what can go wrong during a talk and what you can do about it.

What happened

First, what happened? Well, the room was roughly 1-2 minutes before 3 p.m. full. As the audience was patient and quietly waiting for me to start, I decided to start slightly before schedule. I just had finished my introduction a fire alarm test was announced via the speakers. With all the bells and whistles. First telling all that is a test. After asking everybody to leave immediately and so on. Finished with the test is now over. The sad thing is, I was warned. In the meeting invitation for the WG21 meeting the week before it was expressed, that there is a fire alarm test every Monday at 3 p.m.. However, I forgot. So I had to stay there and just wait until it is over. Ok, did this. Afterwards, I decided to do a short introduction again. Luckily everybody was amused by the fire alarm test interruption.

Is there more?

What's next? Well, thankfully someone in the audience pointed out, after a few minutes I think, that the microphone was down. With a small room no problem, but bad for the video recording. So next interruption. Gladly the video recording guy jumped in and did, what do you think? Yes! Power the audio panel off and on (the audio guy had left before checking the other rooms). Some folks later pointed out to me, that it was the same the week before. The assumption was, that the fire alarms test also powered down some of the sockets. Anyhow, this was the next encounter with me on stage without proceeding as planned.

That's it, right?

Now, it was a 60 minutes talk so you think that's about it? You're wrong! Roughly 20 minutes later there was an interference with the headset causing some bad sounds live and on the recording. The audio guy, meanwhile back in the room, decided that it was too bad and that a hot fix was required. So he removed the headset in exchange for a handled microphone. It is a personal preference of me to have my hands free during a presentation. I tend to speak a little with my hands plus my talk contained live demos. I deliberately chose the headset before the talk when provided with both options. Now can you guess? Correct, the change happened slightly before one of the live demos. I managed somehow to do it with one hand. A while later the audio guy had fixed the problem, and we switched back to the headset. So far these are all the amusing parts I remember.

Unfortunately (or luckily for the usual audience), the fire alarm was cut from the video. But the other things are still there. Have fun watching it here!

What else can go wrong?

I had a situation where I did a dry run of the technical stuff less than 24 hours earlier. Everything worked smoothly as expected. Less than 24 hours later, at the point it was important, the technique failed.

In another encounter, my MacBook somehow pick up a third screen after the projector was attached. Even after unplugging the projector there still was a second screen. I had to reboot the computer 1 minute before the talk started. At this point the MacBook was up for more than 2 months. The talk started a little later than planned.

Why sharing this?

Why I'm sharing this? I know that sometimes people are asked to come to the venue days earlier to test things. My advice is to do this only, either if you're paid for the hours or if it makes you feel more comfortable. On more than average everything works as planned (i.e. fine). You typically work with experts. However, even experts can be surprised by technical difficulties or mishaps.

What helps me? I like to come prepared to my talks. This is what helps me in these situations and gives me confidence. Whatever it is you need to have the same level, do it. But keep in mind, we cannot prepare for everything. You should prepare for the unexpected. How? Well, the best thing I know, keep up the mood, be funny and keep on.

I can smile about all of the above. It caught me be surprise each and every time but I (tried to) manage.