I did an IE 7 in Longhorn (the next version of Windows) and RSS demo today to the entire Windows Client division. There were a few hundred people in the room plus we were webcasting to people in their offices, so potentially thousands.
I had no problems with the machines in the days leading up to the demo, and the demo was running well in rehearsal. Everything looked great.
Showtime. It's my turn. I get introduced. I hop up on stage and look at the monitor and see the machine is hung. Dead. I can't get any response. I start tap dancing with jokes (e.g. "If it were perfect, we'd be shipping it." or "Web browsing is the most common activity for PC users, except me, apparently.")while I feverishly think about what to do and say. My face, meanwhile, is up on two huge screens behind me and streaming out over the our corporate network. I'm sure I had a look of sheer panic on my face. (I'm afraid to look at the recordings.)
I finally decide I need to hard reboot the box. Chris Jones, our VP and an old friend who is on stage with me, suggests that someone else go while my machine gets reset. I return to my seat, grab my laptop, and consider remoting into the machine to get the demo reset.
Now I have a conundrum. I had used Remote Desktop Connection (sometimes referred to by its old name, Terminal Server) to reset the machine after the rehearsals, but I hadn't done this in my office. Was TS causing the problem? I opted to give it a try. I logged in, reset the demo, and prayed. Everything looked OK.
My turn again. I went up, logged into the machine, unsure of what I'd see, talking and joking all the while to keep the thousands of people from suffering from dead air.
Thank, God. The machine was working. My heart started beating again. I looked down at my notes and saw the "Smile" and "SLOW" reminders I had scribbled all over my crib sheet to remind myself to do those things. I proceeded with my demo and managed to get through it without much more drama.
I'm told I did OK recovering from my machine meltdown. These problems are common when showing off pre-release code (hell, it happens with release code too), but knowing that didn't make me feel any better as I looked out on the audience over my dead machine.
Ah, the joys of live performance. A lot of good wine eased the pain afterwards.