Left high ‘n dry….

One or two of you may have wondered at the lack of activity on this web page in recent days. Well, let me recount a true story with a salutary lesson……. of course, it happened to me.

A few weeks ago, I was preparing my laptop and projector to give a slide presentation of my cycle ride Down Under. I had an expectant audience waiting for the start. I had checked that all leads were connected, the PowerPoints were functioning normally, and the Windows Media file of music was set to play at the appropriate moment. All was working as expected, and I was about to indicate to the assembled audience that I was ready to start……… then:

“The best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft a-gley, An’ lea’e us nought but grief and pain, for promis’d joy” (Robert Burns).

crashed laptopMy laptop crashed……. not just temporarily, but terminally (hence the lack of activity on this blog). I spent twenty minutes trying to re-boot the blasted thing, but absolutely no response. The prospect before me was either to bail out completely, or to fill the whole hour with words only. I thought to myself: the committed professional would never bail out, but then they weren’t paying me (so bail out!). The expert wordsmith would be able to paint word pictures (but then, I am not a wordsmith). I finally asked myself: am I really going to wimp out, or should I just take control of the situation and play down the importance of the technological lapse, and pretend it was only a minor inconvenience?  What would you do?

In the end, I calmly pulled up a chair, sat down, meekly apologized for the delay and the lack of slides, and then proceeded to treat the whole hour like a fireside chat. I imagined the slides in my head as I pieced together the story: I was able to engage with the audience much more directly, respond to their questions and observations, and be much less tied to the sequencing imposed by a series of slides.

Thirty one years in the classroom had equipped me with the gift of “waffling”, and they liked it, apparently. For at the end they made a generous donation to the Syrian Appeal.

Message for me at the end? Well, first of all, go equipped with a plan B (ie. another device for showing slides). And secondly, it’s a mistake to think that your visuals carry the ultimate message. It’s you, the speaker, who carries the message. And interestingly, I didn’t see a single pair of drooping eyelids in the audience (a common factor in slideshows…..powerpoints do provide a trigger that sends listeners off to the land of nod).

So now I write this post on a new Windows Surface, having spent a couple of weeks familiarizing myself with the game-changing software of Windows 8…………..hey ho…..


About Frank Burns

Looking for the extraordinary in the commonplace………taking the road less travelled……..striving for the ‘faculty of making happy chance discoveries’ in unremarkable circumstances. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on December 19, 2013, in Australia: Sydney to Melbourne 1000kms, Miscellany and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. My career as professor and preacher was nearing its finish as the use of power point was coming in, and I was not forced to learn it. I have always believed that the speaker’s own self and the forcefulness of the words and ideas are primary. While I appreciate what the visual aids can do, they are–as the old terminology makes clear–aids rather than the main act.

  2. A brave decision. Well done!

  3. Oh no – but good rescue. Let us know how the new Surface goes.

  4. Amazing Frank, well done ! But I reckon you are a pretty good wordsmith !

  5. Well done. Five cheers for extemporisation and therefore increased engagement

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