The bad dress rehearsal

There’s a belief among theater folks that if you have a bad dress rehearsal, it means you will have a good performance opening night. I’m hoping that proves to be true in regards to conference presentations too!

Next week I’m keynoting the Learning@School 2011 conference in Rotorua, New Zealand (Feb 23-25).

I’ve been working on my keynote presentation and thought it would be a good idea to test some of it at PETE&C, the wonderful Pennsylvania state educational technology conference. I added a lot of video of student work, students talking about how their leadership opportunities using technology changed their lives, and more. I always like to SHOW the results of student empowerment rather than just TELL about it.

But as my friend Gary Stager likes to say, multimedia is just Latin for “doesn’t work in front of an audience.” Just a few minutes into my presentation my speakers went dead. Now I’m faced with a dilemma – do you stop what you are doing to do tech support in front of 100 people? Do you just skip the video? Do you try to paraphrase what’s happening in your now silent video? ACK!

I asked if anyone in the audience had any speakers – and one woman came up with hers. Success! Wonderful sound….for about 20 seconds. Then the battery light started blinking, the sound faded away and she apologetically said she had forgotten to charge them up. Back to square one. I fumbled my way through the rest of the presentation, hoping my enthusiasm would make up for the lack of real examples.

By the end of the talk I was pretty discouraged, feeling sad that people didn’t see all the marvelous goodies I had to share and thinking about all the things I should have done differently. It was very heartening that several people came up to me and said that the session had been very inspiring and they were already thinking about some new ways to empower their students with technology. I also saw some very nice tweets about the session. Other people cheered me up with stories about much worse technical calamities that they had endured at conferences or in the classroom. There seems to be relief in shared pain!

But bottom line (and new speakers in hand) I am ready to prove the old theater adage completely right. The bad dress rehearsal surely means that my keynote for New Zealand will be great! Kia ora!


4 Replies to “The bad dress rehearsal”

  1. If it happens here I will share your pain. For the first time in my life I have been asked to keynote a conference and almost balked at the thought of it. The whole ball game changes when you are the person at the front rather than than the tweeter at the back!

    I have decided to give it a go and hope that I will be up to the task.

    Apart from backing everything up twice and bringing a stand alone electricity generator have you got any tips for me??

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