My Sincere Apology

Last week we had our annual Outperform With PROS conference in Orlando Florida. Overall, it was a great success with 900+ attendees. But it was truly a marathon for me with more than 12+ hours of content to prepare and present (from the 9+ hour pre-conference AI workshop to the 6+ hour post-conference AI summit for a customer). The excitement was in the air and the vibe was so energizing that my adrenaline was all pumped up at the conference. So I didn’t realize how tiring I was until after I returned home and slept for 12+ hours straight.

What Happened

Despite everyone’s success, I’ve failed again to deliver my content smoothly. I had the same clicker issue that I experienced last year, where I couldn’t control my slides with the clicker. The slides would either not advance, or advance several clicks at once. Except this year was much worse, and I can’t even click through my presentation at all. But isn’t there a back up?

The Inadequate Backup System

Well, yes and no! Yes, we do have a back up.

But a backup is really not a valid backup if I cannot do what I need to do with the backup system. And what I need to do is to have real-time responsiveness with my slides (i.e. there must be no delays). And the reason is that I have many animated builds within any single. For an hour-long keynote, I typically have ~60+ slides (this time I actually had 72), but within each slide, there are usually 5-10 animated builds and transitions (each one is a click) that are very precisely timed. Taking an average of ~7 clicks per slide means I must be able to apply ~504 clicks throughout my presentation.

For the backup system to work, it must be fast and responsive enough to allow me to execute 5-7 clicks in 1 second to animate the content smoothly while I speak. Otherwise, it will not only disrupt the flow (because I need to slow down at each click), it will also lengthen the talk.

Most professional audiovisual (A/V) team’s clicker is not responsive enough and only allows about 1 click per slide (sometimes it feels even slower than that). This is more than sufficient for a typical talk that has 30-60 clicks throughout the entire presentation. But it will not work for me, because my talk has ~500+ clicks. Interrupting a presentation 60 times vs. 500+ times make a huge difference. It will completely kill my flow.

This is precisely why I insisted on using my own system in the first place.

Besides the disruption, it will certainly lengthens my talk. Assuming the average of 6 clicks/sec, a talk that takes 500 clicks to go through will only take 83 sec, which is <1.4 minutes to just click through the slides. But with a slow clicker that only allows me to go 1 click/sec, it will take about 500 sec, it will lengthen my talk by at least 8.3 minutes just from clicking, let alone the disruption of flow.

If my system is a car, the backup in this case would be a bicycle. It won’t allow me to do what I need to do. So, it’s not really a backup.

Great Content is Never Enough for Me

Although several people have told me afterward that they like the content, and I am truly thankful for such reassurance. However, getting the content out or the message across is just the bare minimum. Anyone could have done so. Today, even a mindless AI avatar with no soul could present the content and get the message across. So whenever I present, it’s never just about presenting the content.

You wouldn’t go watch a movie just for the storyline, and you probably wouldn’t go to a restaurant just for the food either. Of course, the story and the food has to be good respectively, but it is the entire experience that matters. Beyond the storyline, a great movie must be excellent in character development, acting, cinematography, and even the background music and soundtrack must be perfect. Similarly, beyond the delicious food, a great restaurant must be excellent in service, and the ambiance has to be flawless. Everything from the aesthetics, plating and presentation of the dish down to the lighting must be top-notch.

Therefore, if people only remembered the good content, then I definitely failed the delivery.

My Sincere Apology

My Frustration and My Pain

Throughout my career, I’ve given many talks at big events with thousands of attendees. And I’ve always insisted on using my own clicker with my tablet sitting right next to me on the stage. I was extremely frustrated this time because we had tested this with the A/V team, and everything worked perfectly during the rehearsal. And because we had this exact problem last year at Outperform 2023, we tested this extensively. Yet, we still have issues with the clicker.

What pains me most is, why am I having the worst delivery at Outperform (2 years in a row)? Everywhere else I speak, my delivery is a lot smoother, leaving a captivated audience wanting more. If anything, I should be giving my best delivery at Outperform, not the worst. Why am I failing to deliver at the single event that I care most? And I don’t think it’s because of the pressure or the stress.

Yes, accidents happen! But the exact same problem for 2 consecutive years? Unlikely. At the end, most people probably don’t care. So why beat myself over this? The reason is that I never want this to happen again. Ever! Not only will I get a new slide clicker (that is fast, responsive, and long-range), I will also have to insist that I have my system right next to me on stage as with other big events.

Regardless of the marathon of content, the subpar backup, my pain and frustration, and even Murphy’s law working against me, this is not excusable. I have failed my delivery; I did NOT outperform; and I have failed my own expectation. And I am truly sorry for this.