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Keynote Bloopers

So, in my own strange fashion, in preparation for my upcoming keynote at #OER17, I wrote this email the other day to some friends who have some keynoting experience:

So ha :) trying to prep myself for my upcoming keynote inshallah and thought it would be cool to collect stories from folks on “worst thing that can happen to you during a keynote” and to publish that in Prof Hacker or something :) And take consolation :) or something :) R u willing to contribute a story?

I received some very quick responses that had multiple stories each, and all with lessons learned!

Lost luggage

First up is Laura Czerniewicz (University of Capetown, South Africa), whose luggage got lost once and she had to go and buy new clothes the day just before the keynote.

Lessons learned: wear something halfway decent when traveling (i.e. not a tracksuit) and have some spare options in your carry on. A little more difficult for people who travel often is to try to arrive in plenty of time to buy stuff before shops close, in case something goes wrong with your luggage. This could get tricky if you’re keynoting in a small town.

Clothes, mics and shoes

Speaking of clothes, Bonnie Stewart (University of Prince Edward Island, Canada) said “The lav mic battery pack is pretty much always a problem” with most women’s clothes that don’t have pockets or lapels. This reminded me of a conversation I had recently on Twitter, with Donna Lanclos, Lorna Campbell and Sheila MacNeill where we mentioned the same thing. Lesson learned: Check with conference organizers what your mic options are, especially if you plan to move around (as I plan to inshallah). Another story from Bonnie Stewart involves shoes. If you move a lot during your keynote and you’re wearing heels or uncomfortable shoes, it can be a problem. Bonnie said she was wearing power heels once and had a blister in the middle of walking and almost tripped over. I am sure there are stories of people tripping over.

Lesson learned: wear comfortable shoes if you plan to move around (I will! Shoe tweets be damned)

Technical Mishaps

Robin DeRosa (Plymouth State University, USA) said she twice ended up with no technology at all and had to present without it. She says both these present went quite well and one went so well that it was “among the best I ever gave since I compensated by being so animated that the group thought I was riveting and hysterical, and they advised me never to use slides again.”

My boss, Aziza Ellozy (American University in Cairo, Egypt) told me she once discovered a few minutes before her session was starting, that she couldn’t find the latest version of her keynote and had to improvise the many changes she had made.

Laura Czerniewicz had a mishap where she lost her laptop charger, and the only backed up version of her presentation was a pretty old one. She got help (from Paul Prinsloo at the time) getting onto another computer and reproducing the slides (she also had some last minute changes she had wanted to add).

Lesson learned:

  1. You can still present well without technology. Just be confident that you know what you’re saying. Or get a hard copy handout as backup if you need to. As Alan Levine once wrote “technology can let you down, and the only recourse is to keep going”.

  2. Keep your backups up to date and back up offline and online

  3. Take an extra laptop charger, says Laura. Which won’t be a problem for me since I am not really allowed a laptop on my trip to the UK. But maybe I will get an extra mobile charger.

Personal Crises

This one from Robin DeRosa, and I quote her verbatim:

Years ago, I had to reschedule a big talk after my mom suffered a terrible, debilitating stroke. After a number of weeks, she was still in critical condition, when I had to finally go and give the talk. It was sort of awful, but at the same time, I shared the situation with the group and felt very supported. We are all human, and maybe it’s helpful that we show that more in professional situations. Actually, a year later I returned to the venue to give a talk on a different topic, and it was amazing and moving how many people asked me about how my mom was. I was happy to report that she had made a great recovery!

Lessons Learned: It’s right there in Robin’s story. “We are all human, and maybe it’s helpful that we show that more in professional situations”. I couldn’t agree more!

Do you have a keynote mishap you would like to share? Tell us in the comments!

[Trip Here flickr photo by Jeffrey Beall shared under a Creative Commons (BY-ND) license]

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