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Webinar computer crash in front of 1000 people -- now what?

March 7 2018 / by Roger Courville

Filed under: gotowebinar, Presentation Delivery, Presentation Planning, presentation planning, webcast, webinar

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You’re in front of 1000 people doing a live demo. Your computer takes the proverbial dump. Now what?

That’s exactly what happened to me (Roger) during yesterday’s The Slide Clinic Webinar: Real Slides Getting Live Makeovers with Daniel Waas and the GoToWebinar crew. Maybe something I can share with you today will help you respond and recover with grace.


Here’s how this is going to roll:

  1. Given how often I hear people respond fearfully about, I’m going to talk to you successful thinking first
  2. Then I’ll point out a couple things you can do (one of which is to point you to another long post), and
  3. Then I’ll share what was uniquely different about yesterday – since there is NOT just one way to do things.

Part 1: Grow the peace in your heart

Start from the perspective of “real people talking with real people.”

Unlike some races where people love to talk about big wrecks, when you’re presenting to a group of people, the audience actually wants you to succeed. They’re rooting for you. When you’re successful, they get value. Real people don’t get joy from your misfortune and they aren’t getting pissed off if something beyond your reasonable control happens. If they do, that’s on them for being poopooheads.

Put tech in its place.

Technology problems are, fortunately, rare (and, frankly, most of the time it’s an individual’s ISP or personal computing setup, not the conferencing provider or the backbone of the interwebs). But using tech is like that same route you drive to the office every day – one time in 400 there’s some major kerfuffle that makes a mess of things.

The point is that, while it’s never convenient and it’s sometimes even costly, it just is what it is. Refer to point #1: real people want you to succeed, and the question is what are you going to about it?  Our opinion here at EventBuilder is that the prime directive of being in the service biz is:

Professionalism isn’t what happens when everything goes right…
… it’s what happens when everything goes wrong.

Part 2: How to minimize risk, regardless of anyone else’s plan

Use two computers or monitors and have more than one audio source engaged.

Here’s a post that goes into extensive detail about exactly how to set up for a gig (or at least what I do). I actually, really, legitimately do this stuff, and I use two computers doing it. Why? See the prime directive above.

Work with a plan or someone who’s got one.

Whether it’s you or the those you work with to make your webinar, webcast, or virtual class happen, somebody should know what to do “in case of fire.” This goes a long way to giving you peace of mind.

Part 3: What you can learn from what was unique about yesterday’s event

It’s okay to change setups – sometimes you may need to.

I have a Mac and a PC, and I usually present from my Mac as my primary machine. And if you explored this post, you’ll see there’s not just one perfect way to approach this.

Yesterday one of the two makeovers I was doing was for a PC user, and I was going to recommend that he use one of Microsoft’s current system fonts (Segoe UI Light) that is not available on the Mac (which bums me out). To make things easier (not switching between my two machines), I just chose to present from the PC with the Mac as my “communication command center” (seriously, see this post if you want to know whattup).

What about this new way of connecting to audio?

Yesterday’s setup was different in a couple ways, but the big deal was audio. I’m in the middle of an office redux, so I had a wonky way of needing to grab a hardwired internet connection. Because neither PC nor Mac have Ethernet ports, I used adapters that connect Ethernet to USB, but now I’m running out of USB ports when internet, USB headset, mouse, etc., were involved. Both machines are logged in as presenters (organizers) separately – they’re independently connected to GoToWebinar.

In short:

  • I was using a USB headset connected to the audio of the further machine (the Mac – the upper one – in the picture).
  • As a backup, my iPhone was dialed into the audio conference bridge from the PC, the one right in front of me. It’s on mute, though, because I’m presenting using the USB headset.

A second reason for changing setups: decreased bandwidth usage by the PC (because I don’t trust it).

Love it or leave it, the PC’s acting wonky. I’m worried that doing a live screen share AND using VoIP (USB headset) on just that machine – the primary one I’m presenting from – might cause momentary freezes that would affect audio for all involved. So again, I’m presenting screenshare from the PC, but to the audience I’m showing video camera and audio via headset from the Mac.

Make sense? No worries if that seems weird. It’s not what I normally do.  ---- > But in this case it saved my bacon.   < ---

And then the worst happened – and this setup totally saved the day.

Normally with a two-computer setup and two audio sources connected, if one has an issue you simply mute that one and unmute the other – and you’re off and rolling.

THIS time, however, the PC went down, my audio was already connected through the Mac. There was no interruption at all aurally.

I simply shut the PC lid, went up to the Mac to make it the presenter, and opened the backup slides that were loaded on the Mac (benefit of using the cloud for storage!).

The bottom line: Tell the audience what’s going on

You know how when you do a play on stage, somebody flubs a line, and you improv a bit until you recover? Yeah, that’s not my preference.

It does have a time and place, but I’m a fan of just telling the audience what’s going on (they can tell something’s up if they’re paying attention anyway, right?).

Which gets us back to the very first point: people want you to succeed. And quite fortunately, the day was a success despite the PC in front of me having a bad hair day.

Can we ask for more than that?

I don’t think so.



Topics: gotowebinar, Presentation Delivery, Presentation Planning, presentation planning, webcast, webinar

Roger Courville

About Roger Courville

Chief Aha! Guy | Good dad | Bad guitarist | Loves habaneros |

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