Backups aren’t just for databases.
Back in 2012, I started on a journey of sharing my technical knowledge by giving technical presentations. Now this might scare the living jeepers out of most people, but I found it exciting and fulfilling. Since then, I try to speak at ten events a year. Recently, I had the opportunity to speak the most awesome SQL Saturday Houston. Everything lined up for this to be a slam dunk. I was scheduled to give a presentation on Entity Framework, a presentation that I had given many times including the PASS Summit last year.
The afternoon before the event I was in my hotel room about to rehearse the presentation one more time. I take out my laptop, hit the power button, and nothing. It doesn’t boot, it just sits there. I whip out the power cord, plug it in to the laptop and it boots! Disaster averted. As it turns out the battery totally failed. Now, I could have used the laptop as is and everything would have gone just fine but I pulled out a second laptop, started it up, and rehearsed from that. I didn’t have to install anything. I didn’t have to restore a database or move files. I just opened Visual Studio, SSMS, and PowerPoint and I was ready to go. When you’re a speaker you need to be ready for anything, especially hardware problems.
So in celebration of my near disaster here are some of my tips for a disaster proof presentation.
BRING A SECOND LAPTOP
It’s going to happen at some point. Your machine is going to die. Sad but true. You don’t know when, you don’t know when. So have a second machine ready when you present. Have all of your demos and decks ready to go before you walk on stage. I like to put the second machine in sleep mode so that if I have to switch to it, it’s up in seconds. If you don’t have a spare laptop lying around, see if you can borrow one from work or from a friend. Although now that I think about it, if a friend is going to let you borrow a laptop that’s a great friend. You should take them to a nice dinner.
USE A FILE SYNCHRONIZATION SERVICE
I’m finding file synchronization service like Dropbox or OneDrive invaluable these days. These services serve three functions: 1. Puts a copy of your files in the cloud. I hear backups are good. 2. Allows you to share your files between different machines. 3. Allows you to share and collaborate with others. That’s all well and good, but the short of it is that when you use these services when you update a file on one machine, it will sync the changes to another. So when you update that PowerPoint presentation or that demo script you can be sure it will make it to your demo machine.
CREATE A DEMO FREE BACKUP PRESENTATION
Ah, the infamous demo failure. It’s the bubonic plague of technical conferences. Don’t fall victim to this epidemic. Wash your hands after…wait, that’s not it. Create a backup presentation that has screenshots of your demo. This way when the demo plague hits you can make a nice easy transition to your backup deck with the screenshots like a pro. Some presenters have even recorded their demos and used the videos as a backup. Sounds like a good way to spoof cloud presentations if you ask me.
KEEP DEMOS AND PRESENTATION FILES ON A THUMB DRIVE
This may be overkill but hear me out. This is your last line of defense. The line must be drawn here! This far, no further! When all else fails, this is your secret weapon. You now have a portable copy of your presentation. Beg to use someone’s machine, pop in the thumb drive, and you go get ’em tiger!
Brent says: at a recent conference, another speaker was struck by disaster in the prep room: his video card died. I handed him my spare laptop, and off he went. So don’t just think of your spare as your own spare – it can help others, too.