Sometimes technology is your best friend, other times it’s your worst enemy! This month we asked our panel to share with us their most recent and frequent technology failures.
Allison Shields Johs (ASJ), William Goren (WG), Dennis Kennedy (DK) and Lance Johnson (LJ).
What’s the worst technology failure you’ve ever experienced yourself?
ASJ: It’s hard to choose just one – but two similar nightmares have to do with internet failures during live webinars or web meetings. Once, my co-presenter completely dropped out for several minutes during a live presentation with hundreds of attendees. More recently, I was conducting a live virtual training with several attorneys at a client’s office when my internet completely dropped and I couldn’t get back into the meeting.
WG: My failure that happens often are Dragon files becoming corrupted and I have to start a new user profile. More so than often, dragon files become corrupted and I have to replace them with backup files that are not corrupt.
DK: Have you ever used a remote mouse or clicker supplied by the conference for a presentation? Still waiting for one of those to work right. My favorite was when I had to carry about 50 feet of projector cable that had been screwed into my laptop connection to my next presentation and find someone in the audience with a screwdriver.
LJ: My worst failure was a new ediscovery tool that was oversold by the sales folks and that did not operate as smoothly as suggested. The selling company is one of the big folks in the legal market so I trusted the pitch. It turned out that the only way the system would work was to hire the company selling the product to staff and run the system.
How did you resolve it?
ASJ: In the first situation, luckily, I was able to continue the presentation on my own until my co-presenter got back online, and then we just integrated him back into the program.
In the second one, I had to continue the training by phone, and instead of sharing a screen, we each looked separately at my slides. It wasn’t ideal, but ultimately they got the information they needed. And of course, I offered to do another training session if they needed it!
WG: Substituting the backup file for the current file; backing up file to a flash drive.
DK: See my earlier answer. Another big fail happened when I couldn’t get my screen to display on the projector for a big presentation. Fortunately, Tom Mighell was there to troubleshoot and solve the problem. That option is not usually available.
LJ: I found a much smaller, local company who had an established ediscovery business. Their quotes were reasonable and set up in a way that the costs could be billed and justified in the monthly client invoice.
What’s the most interesting oops moment you’ve observed on video conferencing?
ASJ: I’ve seen a lot of oops moments, although none as bad as some of the horror stories I hear from others. The most common oops moments I’ve seen are interruptions in the middle of meetings from family members who don’t realize they’re in an ongoing meeting or poorly thought-out backgrounds or camera angles – nobody needs to see your unmade bed during a professional meeting, and nobody wants to be looking at only the top half of your face throughout a Zoom call.
DK: I still marvel at people who state loudly at the beginning of Zoom meetings that they don’t really know how to use Zoom and demonstrate that fact time after time in the meeting. This stuff can be learned by young children. It really is possible for lawyers to learn it too.
LJ: It was probably something I did so I’m not going to throw stones.
What’s the worst tech mistake you’ve seen in a document (ex; worst information you’ve seen left in a document from a prior client)?
LJ: Nothing major.
DK: I’ve seen too many to even know where to begin. My favorites are ones that indicate what the fallback negotiating position will be. Made me a much better negotiator on the deal.
How can we best set ourselves up to avoid technology failures, or what technology can be used to prevent these horror stories from happening in the future?
ASJ: Tech failure are going to happen – there’s no getting around it. But I think the best way to minimize them is through good preparation – check the tech you’ll be using in advance. Eliminate any distractions or anything external that could cause a problem. Alert others in your household or office when you shouldn’t be interrupted. Always have a backup plan so that you know what to do if something goes wrong – have a backup copy of your slides or other data; develop an alternative plan if your audio isn’t working or your headset suddenly fails. Know who to call if your tech doesn’t perform the way you expect it to.
DK: Stuff happens. It’s kind of miraculous that all of this works as well as it does. Keep experimenting. Be willing to learn from mistakes. Ask questions and ask for help with humility. My best technique these days is checklists. Don’t assume that you won’t forget things. I have ten or so items on my checklist for initiating Zoom calls for my classes. If I don’t use the checklist, I typically will forget something. I now rely on the checklist, not me.
LJ: Apart from having a good set of 2nd eyes, it has to be personal diligence and the development of error-detecting muscle memory.