April 01, 1998
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio April 1998 Current Issue
April 1998 Net GainsPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:

Net Gains


Handling Technical Difficulties

PC problems are invevitable; why not learn to solve them?

If you have a computer on your desk, something is bound to go wrong sometime. Your PC won't boot up, the software doesn't complete a calculation, you can't seem to send documents to the printer the possible problems are endless.

If you're having a technical problem, remember the golden rule of tech support: RTFM, or "read the fabulous manual." If that doesn't help, the next best place to seek assistance (or sympathy) is the manufacturer's Web site. Many have lists of FAQs (frequently asked questions) or indexes of common problems and solutions. Sometimes you can e-mail your problem to tech support. You should get an answer within 24 hours.

Of course, you can't access a Web page if your hardware is on the blink. Luckily, most computer products come with a convenient phone number for support (sometimes even toll-free) printed in the manual that you probably discarded with the box. Next time you buy something, write that number down before recycling. If there's an option to buy extra tech support when you purchase a computer-related item, do it. That way, you're covered until you get the hang of the new product.

Once you reach a real person, help is close at hand, especially if you signed up for the service contract. If you didn't, have your credit card ready. Then a friendly technician will be glad to solve your problem or find another manufacturer to blame and send you on to them for answers.

As a last resort, if you can't find the manual, the phone number, the Web site or any other quick relief, call for local help. Most computer retailers can point you to a highly paid 22-year-old consultant who will make a home or office visit and have your problem resolved before you can say "$285 plus parts and tax."

If your company has an information technology department, take a different tack altogether. Every office, no matter what size, should have a designated geek who is willing or able to fix technical problems for everybody else. Bring him a double latte with cinnamon every once in a while so he'll be happy to dole out pearls that will keep your computer running smoothly.

The biggest problem in a small organization is that the geek's role as tech support may be secondary to his real job in sales or some other revenue-generating department. Eventually, and inevitably, he won't have time to devote to his real job, because he is spending all of his time resolving technical dilemmas, calling manufacturer support folks and nipping old problems in the bud by ordering new stuff. Finally a brand-new position will be created for him and he'll be making more money than you are.

You can always take a pre-emptive strike before yelling for help by using one of the many diagnostic software packages like Norton Utilities or Uninstaller to analyze and repair what is causing your problems. You can also use the system tools in your accessories folder and defragment or scan your ills away.

While this solution can sometimes have good results, you must know what you're doing to get them to work. Again, RTFM. These tools are software, after all, and you have to be able to figure out how to make them work correctly before using them to fix something else.

There is usually a remedy for just about everything that goes wrong with computers. If you simply don't like the way something works, you may need to trade it in buy the upgrade or a competing product. If your computer reminds you of your aunt's old '64 Lincoln, get more RAM, or just buy a new computer. You'd be surprised how much firepower $2,000 can put on your desk. If Web pages appear on your screen like slugs crossing a sidewalk in summer, get a faster modem or pay for extra bandwidth (ISDN, cable modem or ADSL are the standards).

When it comes right down to it, no matter what's in your computer arsenal, it won't be a useful weapon much longer. It will break, become obsolete, or some new technology will come along that you just can't live without. But that is the way things are today. Learn all you can, plan for new developments, and you will always lead the charge.

Rodman Marymor, CMP, and Jeffrey Rasco, CMP, are partners in San Francisco and Austin, Texas-based HMR Associates, providing technology solutions for the meetings industry.

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