Within minutes of going on stage for the keynote session of X World in Sydney, Australia, my entire presentation went kaput. 100%. Watch the video to evaluate what happened next and read the Gory Details section for ... um, all the gory details.
How did I let this happen!?
Let's start at the beginning. I had intended to complete my presentation well before boarding the flight from Chicago to Sydney. However, knowing I had nearly 20 hours on a plane (4 hours, 40 minutes to San Francisco, and 14 hours 40 minutes to Sydney), it was easy to convince myself that there was plenty of time to make improvements. And that's what I did. Using my iPad Pro and Keynote for iOS, I made edits on the flight.
A lot of edits.
My wife and I landed in Sydney on Monday. When we arrived at the hotel, I connected my MacBook Pro and iPad Pro to the Wi-Fi, let iCloud do its sync, and continued to make edits throughout the week — sometimes on my iPad and sometimes on my Mac.
Early in the week, I showed the talk to my wife. She gave me feedback, and I made more edits. On Thursday, I hosted a cybersecurity workshop that went well, but I learned some things, so I made more edits. If you're keeping count, then you know I made at least umpteen gazillion edits from the time I left The States until presentation time.
Friday was my day to present, but not until afternoon tea was served. All morning I listened to other presentations and occasionally made even more edits to my Keynote. Not because I had to, but why not? This Keynote was going to be perfect — with perfect transitions (both visually and verbally) and references to earlier conference talks. I was going to tie it all together into the most fantastic presentation X World — maybe even the world — had ever seen!
What if my topic — the one I was about to spend the next 40 minutes talking about is not even relevant for this audience? I mean, I'm somewhat sort of confident this talk would go well at home in Chicago, but these are Australians! Every discussion this week I've listened to, participated in, or simply overheard sounded so much more interesting than anything back home. It might be the accent, but it could also be that Australians are more evolved than us Midwestern folk ... and they're going to laugh me off their stage and out of their county. This talk was about to go horribly wrong. Alas. Too late. I could not back out now. It was during this period of mental self-doubt I noticed my MacBook battery was depleting dangerously fast (months later, my battery would outright fail. Good thing I have AppleCare)!
No worries. I was sitting near a wall outlet and had the necessary power cords and world adaptors. I made my way to the wall and ... bummer (or blimey)! The power outlet was so close to the floor (oddly close — nearly touching the floor), and my power adapter was too big. I could not plug-in. I considered asking a local to loan me their power adapter, then reconsidered. I was done making edits. Or was I? I still had plenty of time, so I opened the Keynote file on my iPad and ran through the talk in my head one final time. I fixed a few typos, odd transitions, and made some edits that more closely related to the morning talks, then sat back and mentally prepared for showtime.
While afternoon tea was served, I made my way to the stage and connected my MacBook to the video system. It was at this moment a dialog box warning appeared that I had never seen before. It said there was a conflict, and I had a choice to make. Would I like to use the Keynote file from my Mac or from my iPad? I considered choosing my Mac because that was my presentation device, and it felt like a safe choice. Yet, I knew my iPad had the latest version, and Keynote was giving me an option, so it must be OK to choose either one, right? I chose the iPad version. The spinning pinwheel of death began, and Keynote crashed. Highly unusual.
A small but significant jolt of panic coursed through me. I brushed it aside, knowing it was too soon to meltdown. I took a deep breath and reopened the Keynote file. Spinning wheel again, then, "This file is unreadable." My panic returned with a vengeance. The last time I felt my body change so suddenly and surprisingly was when I was trapped alone in a stuck elevator. My monkey brain tapped me on the shoulder and gently reminded me that the X World planning committee had flown me halfway around the world, put me up in a hotel, and all they asked in return was for me to make this presentation. The presentation I had lived with most intimately for the past several months was gone, and I could not even recall the title.
It was at this time the audio guy asked me if I was ready for the lavalier mic. "Uh, no," I replied. "I need to use the toilet." Good idea, he smiled, "We don't need to hear you doing that." I restarted my Mac and headed for the loo ... maybe to vomit. I assured myself that when I returned, with an empty bladder, some calming breaths, and a clear mind, I would find a way to recover what was needed. But I couldn't take any chances. I needed help. I found Marcus Ransom and said, "I'm having trouble, I can't think straight, and I need your help." (At least I think that's what I said. You'll have to ask Marcus for verification.) What happened next is a blur to me. Marcus and I tried a few things, but nothing changed. He also enlisted help from Tania Dastres, who was sitting nearby. Nothing was working. Tony, the conference organizer, made the executive decision for me to "sort yourself out in the hallway." They proceeded with the lightning talks. I had about 30 minutes to get it together.
Outside in the hallway, I decided to restore a CrashPlan backup. Good news, I had one! Bad news, it was going to take 56 minutes to restore. WHAT!? I returned to Keynote and tried to restore a previous version. This was something Marcus and I had tried a few minutes earlier but got nothing. This time I went through the restore process day by day ... for several days ... until I found one that would restore. Yes! It was several days old — going back to when I was last at home in The States — but at this point, anything was better than nothing.
As I worked furiously to make some badly needed edits to my out-of-date Keynote file, Marcus and Tania emerged with a salvaged Keynote file. This file had all of my slides, albeit each one was low resolution and in random order. (I still need to learn from Tania how she managed this — update coming soon!) So between my days' old version and the salvaged pieces, I worked to reconstruct my "final" presentation. I worked (and continued to breathe) until Marcus emerged again to say, "it's time!"
What happened next was recorded (see below), so no need to describe it in detail.
What really happened?
Obviously, I missed multiple opportunities to avoid this situation. A few mistakes I made...
No Backup Copies. I thought a copy on my MacBook Pro, iPad Pro, and iCloud was enough. It was not.
No Paper Copies. Yes, my aggressive avoidance of paper was a poor choice.
I did not memorize my talk. In a perfect world, I would not need a presentation to present, but I struggle to work this way. My style is more conversational, and I rely on the Keynote slides to prompt me. (Maybe, I consider changing my style?)
I did not complete my talk days earlier. Uh. Yes, please. Next time. I promise and cross my heart.
Looking past all the ways I could have better prepared for — or even avoided — this situation, what really happened?
For starters, I did not fully comprehend the relative slowness of the Internet speeds in The Land Down Under. The 100/100 connection I was accustomed to at home simply did not compare to the hotel, cellular, or conference space connections. I had built a habit of switching between devices and enjoying the convenience of iCloud sync. It worked beautifully. Until it didn't. I put too much trust in this system. Most likely, during my last switch from my MacBook to my iPad, then back again, the sync did not complete. It would be nice if iCloud gave some feedback or warnings (estimated time to complete the sync, please). It would be nice if iCloud did not present me with an option between two files it could not deliver. It would be nice if technology always worked flawlessly. But the reality is it sometimes doesn't, and I could have been better prepared. Lesson learned.
Thank you to all of Australia (I think everyone from the country was at X World) and to Tony for your invitation, your assistance, and your understanding. A special big thanks to Tania and Marcus. I am relieved it all worked out ... sort of, kind of ... although I clearly and nearly screwed it all up on my own, I could not have recovered without your help.
Have a few — quickly accessible — backups.
Finish early (for real) then stop editing.
Memorize ... if you can.