My Biggest Demo Fail

Demo’s fail. If you don’t bribe the demo gods well enough things will come crashing down on you. How you handle and recovery from your demo fail shows just how good of a presenter you are.

My biggest demo fail was a few years ago now. Let me set the stage for you. It’s TechEd North America in Atlanta, GA. It’s my first time presenting at TechEd, ever. I get to my room 20 minutes before my session, get up on stage (TechEd has 30 minute breaks or longer between sessions) and fire up my laptop. You see I’ve got 5 VMs that I need to be able to run to make my demo happen. So I fire everything up, get logged into all the VMs, and I’ve got plenty of time left.

I plug in the audio feed to the sound system and fire up some music and tell the room monitors to start letting people in. People start to file in. The room holds probably 400 people and ends up about 1/2 full. A couple of friends have come to sit in the front row so we’re chatting (with the mic turned off). About two minutes to go before my session there’s a loud thud and the screens go dark, and I can see that the room is no longer bathed in the colorful glow of the projectors. The entire room now has a blue tint to it, while my music is still playing.

I head back over to my laptop and see that yep, it’s blue screened. The audience starts to give the congrats your machine blew up applause.

I quickly reboot my machine and get the slide deck back up on the screen while booting up my VMs while giving the talk.

Everyone in the room knew exactly how badly screwed I was, but by the time I got to the demo portion of the session the VMs were up and logged in, and the demos worked exactly as expected. Thankfully the laptop didn’t blue screen again during the entire time.

The lesson here is that these things happen. All you can do it recover, roll with it, and pray that you can get through it gracefully. It doesn’t matter how much you prepare, things happen. Apparently I did OK, as I presented at the next 3 TechEd North America and the next three TechEd Europe events.



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