What If My Tech Field Day Presentation Goes Wrong?

One of the most common concerns that first-time Tech Field Day presenters bring up is “the worst case scenario”: What if everything goes off the rails in front of the most influential people in their industry? Even worse, what if the whole world is watching the live streaming video?

A Critical Audience

These fears are completely understandable, since honesty is a hallmark of social media and companies cannot control the delegates. In fact, the Tech Field Day organizers stress the importance of integrity in our pre-event delegate discussions, making sure everyone understands that they are not expected to write glowing prose about our presenters! Negative comments and coverage can and do result from Tech Field Day, though perhaps not as often as our more pessimistic presenters fear!

Perhaps the most important restraint on disastrous criticism is the personal feel of the event. Although the delegates might disagree with a presenter or the points he makes, the fact that we are all people around the same table takes the edge off. It’s harder to rip someone to shreds when you are looking at them, sitting in their office, and drinking their coffee. Disagreements still happen, of course, but the ensuing discussion tends to be constructive rather than withering.

It is very common for delegates to disagree with each other. We always seek a diverse and balanced panel for every event, and disagreements are actually more common between delegates than “across the table” to the presenters. Even more controversial technologies usually find as many supporters in the audience as critics, and the result is a lively and respectful discussion rather than a flame.

If a delegate is truly disruptive to the presentation, the Tech Field Day staff will act to control the situation, even removing him from the room. Similarly, we expect our presenters to act to keep their own personnel in line and move on to a different topic rather than continuing an argument. Note that it rarely comes to this: Since 2009, we can count on one hand the number of disruptive, disrespectful, or rude individuals involved in Tech Field Day, and they will not be invited back!

What To Do When Trouble Arises

Although disruptive individuals are rare, unfortunate situations are not. Demos often fail, and some presenters just do not “hit it off” with the audience. In these cases, we have a simple and straightforward process to get the presentation back on schedule.

If a Tech Field Day delegate is “over the line”:

  1. Alert the on-site staff of your concern, though they are likely already watching the situation develop
  2. The Tech Field Day staff will gently encourage the delegate to calm down
  3. If needed, the delegate will be removed (this has never happened!)

If your presentation isn’t working:

  1. The on-site Tech Field Day staff will alert you
  2. You should encourage your presenter to wrap up their segment and move on to the next section

No one wants to see a bad situation develop, and we will work together to ensure a respectful and productive discussion.

What About the Video?

We strongly encourage every presenter to allow us to livestream the majority of their presentation, and we will post video recordings shortly afterwards for post-event viewing.

The on-site Tech Field Day video team is a service provided to our presenters. Most companies choose to stream all of their sessions, though some schedule an off-camera discussion to wrap up their session. Scheduling a time for off-camera feedback helps to reduce tension during controversial presentations as well. Since the delegates know they will have a chance to speak up, they may reserve their harsher criticism for this time.

We do not generally edit the video recordings, though we do trim the beginning and ending to make them more useful to our audience. We will abide by requests from our presenters to remove a video segment that is harmful to the company, though this is very rare in practice. We encourage companies to let the videos stand as recorded unless a legal issue prevents that. Although it has never been required, we can interrupt the live video stream if necessary.

What If The Coverage Is Negative?

One of our primary requirements when selecting delegates is that they be “independent”. This can be hard to judge, but we believe that our delegates know bias when they see it. Since all Tech Field Day delegates must be voted on by past delegates, we attempt to weed out those with an axe to grind. This focus on independence helps defuse many presenters’ concerns about bias.

Negative coverage is a fact of life on the Internet. We believe that honest, personal interaction is the best possible way to help critics see another point of view. Certainly, no company can “freeze out” a critic and expect his opinion to change!

Many companies have found that the sort of frank technical discussion facilitated by Tech Field Day is an excellent way to engage their critics. In fact, many of our more controversial presentations have become favorites of the delegates and presenters alike!

We encourage delegates to stay “on point” regardless of what they think of a company’s products or technology. We suggest that they be honest, focus on technology and capabilities rather than opinion, and be fair to all presenters. And many delegates choose to write nothing at all rather than criticize a Tech Field Day presenter, though this is not our intention.

Do Not Panic!

We want our presenters to have a positive and constructive experience and to engage with an open-minded technical audience. We want them to build lasting relationships with “influencers” in their field, some of whom may choose to mention presenters on their blogs, podcasts, or speaking engagements. We want to produce compelling and interesting video content, as well.

We will work with our presenters and delegates to correct any issues that arise. And we will be honest and open throughout.