I was booked by Lindsay Scott of the House of PMO to deliver a webinar on setting up and working as a contractor.
It was important to me that it went well, because I was also going to use the webinar to launch a brand new business – The PMO Professionals.
I had some (ahem!) ‘challenges’ on the day that made the webinar rather tricky to deliver, and which meant that the session didn’t come across quite as ‘professionally’ as I intended.
Here’s what happened, and what I learned from it that you might find useful.
So I had the talk all written (with a slide at the end launching this new business, The PMO Professionals), and I had the web conference all booked into my calendar. I wanted to be able to share video with sound during my presentation, but Lindsay was confident that she knew how we could do that, so I arranged with Lindsay that I would join the call about 15 mins early to confirm the settings required.
On the day of the webinar, I experienced some internet connectivity issues during the morning (video freezing, sound going crackly, etc.), so I warned Lindsay that we might experience some challenges, and sent her a copy of my slide pack.
With 30 minutes to go before the start of the webinar, I asked other members of the household to get off the internet to give me access to all the bandwidth on offer. To give me a fresh internet connection I rebooted the optical router, the WiFi hub, my powerline ethernet adapter, and went back upstairs to reboot my PC to find the one things that nobody wants to see in those circumstances…
The Blue Screen Of Death, with the progress indicator ticking up agonisingly slowly…
I messaged Lindsay to let her know.
I rebooted, got the files open, joined her in the call (with people waiting in the virtual lobby, as there was now only a couple of minutes to go)
We did a quick test run sharing the video and sound (it worked!), and then I switched my camera off to collect myself while Lindsay let people in, greeted them, started to video record the call, and did the intro to the session.
She handed over to me and I started to deliver the presentation.
So far, so good! People chipping in, laughing at my dad gags, then about ten minutes in…
Their faces froze, no sound, no internet connection!
So I went to plan B – use my phone as an internet hotspot (independent of my flaky WiFi and broadband) and tether my laptop to it.
I joined the call, and success! The webinar attendees sounded pleased that I was back.
It took a while to sort out my video and sound settings, but I was recording video locally on my camera (fitted with a fresh battery) so that I could send it to Lindsay afterwards, but just at the pint where I was ready to resume the presentation…
Their faces froze, no sound, no internet connection!
So I went to plan C – I dialled in from my phone.
I no longer had access to the conference call links as my laptop diary was refusing to open without an internet connection, so I had to rely on the dial-in details that my friends (some of whom were attending the webinar for moral support) had instant messaged me. I managed to dial the phone number well enough, but the meeting code was a long string of letters and digits, which I got wrong several times before I managed to get in (sweating slightly by now).
The webinar attendees sounded surprised that I was back.
I did the talk over the phone, and Lindsay ran the presentation from her computer.
This had its drawbacks – the sound was flaky, I couldn’t see the webinar attendees and they couldn’t see me, I couldn’t activate the slide animations in the way that I had intended, and I had no simple way of knowing if Lindsay was in the right place, but I was able to get my message across to the webinar.
Somewhere in the middle of this, my camera battery died. Changing the battery would have meant taking the camera off the tripod and resetting it – not what you want in the middle of delivering a presentation.
So I carried on to the end, giving cues to Lindsay to advance the presentation, and asking her periodically if she was in the right place.
This wasn’t how I had planned it!
- I did manage to deliver the presentation (including the video with sound that I had been worried about)
- I did manage to launch The PMO Professionals
- I did get across some useful information to the webinar attendees
I think I got away with it.
So what did I learn from this experience? I’m glad you asked:
- It probably isn’t as bad as you think.
In a situation like this, you have an image in your head of what the final deliverable should look like. In your head, it’s bold, bright, and sparkling. Nobody else can see that image, just you. I felt as though the whole thing had been a car crash and was probably painful for the attendees to experience, but people told me afterwards that the webinar had gone well, that I had come across as calm and collected (not how it felt at this end at all), and that it looked as though Lindsay and I had rehearsed it that way (we hadn’t – Lindsay had not looked at the presentation until just a few hours before the event)
- It pays to have contingency plans.
Most of the time, Plan A will work just fine. But this time, Plan A went to pot, Plan B crumbled and we ended up running with Plan C, and even part of that failed too. So it is good to have if not fully-fledged back-up plans, then at least an idea of what you will do if things go wrong; which parts of the deliverable are ‘nice to have’ elements that can be dropped in the interests of getting the deliverable over the line.
- Buy ‘cheap’, buy twice.
I think I already knew this. I bought a good quality camera from a well-respected company for a considerable sum of money, then baulked at the (much smaller!) price of spare batteries and bought cheap ones instead. And found out during a webinar that those batteries last for just over 30 minutes of video filming. I will now order the original batteries that I baulked at the price of, and I also have a power cable so that I can film as long as I like when I am less than 3 metres from a mains power socket. So my ‘cheap’ batteries didn’t work out as cheap as I’d hoped.
- Sometimes you just have to figure it out.
When you’re part of a huge corporation, if you have a technical problem then you can just call on one of an army of IT helpdesk people to come and bail you out. But when there’s just two of you and the other one is hundreds of miles away, you just have to breathe, take a step back from the stressful situation you find yourself in, figure out what’s gone wrong and how to fix it. Or execute Plan B. And then Plan C.
- Trust the ‘team’.
Lindsay is a friend, and I also had some friends in the webinar audience. I hadn’t planted them or anything so they weren’t a team as such, but they did support me (so in that sense they acted like a team that had formed spontaneously). Whilst I was off the air, Lindsay filled in, and some of my friends in the audience gave their own perspectives about the content on the slides. Others sent me direct messages with the access numbers I needed to get back into the call on the phone. They held things together until I was back on the air. They had my back.
- People value authenticity.
Recognising that the presentation was important to me and had not gone to plan, Lindsay offered me the opportunity to re-record it at my leisure so that the recording on the House of PMO web site would be the slick, professional delivery that I had intended. I could have re-recorded the presentation in a slick and professional way, and airbrushed over my challenges. But having discussed it with my business partner Nicole, I came to the conclusion that it would be more in keeping with my Campaign for Real Project Managers (#CAMRPM) not to re-do it but to do the opposite, and edit out all the bits that went to plan, leaving only the challenges and imperfections in place. To show people that sometimes things don’t go smoothly, but with a bit of grit, determination and resourcefulness you can still deliver something worthwhile.
So, do you fancy a chuckle at my expense? Would you like to see me fall flat on my face live in front of an audience? Then take a look at this (which is a video of the webinar showing only the bits that went wrong):
If you want to see the ‘official’ version, why not watch the recording over at the House of PMO, and then come back here and share your thoughts!
Perhaps even share which version you found more useful / informative!?