Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio July
BY RODMAN MARYMOR, CMP, AND
JEFFREY RASCO, CMP
Don't let computer problems throw you; have a backup plan
Imagine you are unveiling your newest product,
something so huge, it's been covered not only in the trade press,
but in the mainstream media as well. Your live demonstration is in
front of thousands of people at a major event, and hundreds of
thousands more have access to it on the Internet. Now, imagine your
computer system crashes as you present your brainchild to the
world. This is not a hypothetical nightmare. It happened to
Microsoft boss Bill Gates as he demonstrated Windows 98 to the
crowd at COMDEX. But what if you're not Bill Gates and don't have a
team of techies on hand to rescue you? That's where most of us are,
and the thought of a technology meltdown can be crippling.
THE TECHNOLOGY STRANGLEHOLD
We've all been faced with technological disasters. It seems
Murphy's Law was written specifically for those of us with
computers on our desks.
Jean Reposa, information resource manager for Sonesta Hotels and
Resorts, wraps it up neatly: "We were never held hostage by our
office machinery before. We didn't have to call in the SWAT team
when something went wrong, we just changed the ribbon and went on
with our work. We're so reliant on technology today, if the
computer goes down, we can be toast until somebody fixes it."
The Internet makes the hostage situation worse than ever. Is the
World Wide Web a timesaver, allowing us to do our research among
amazing resources, or does the World Wide Wait keep us twiddling
our thumbs while the Web pages load? E-mail can be another time
thief, with all the spam, chain mail, virus hoaxes, joke lists and
personal correspondence zipping over the corporate cables. E-mail
also has an illusion of immediacy; we receive one and drop
everything to respond.
Finally, there's the system itself - hardware, software,
training, upgrades and maintenance. Who's ever abreast of the
changes? And the worst can happen to any of us. It happened to
Gates, and it recently happened to one of us (the guy with the
moustache). A system crash took with it weeks of work, devouring a
calendar of upcoming and past meetings, and scores of contacts. We
back up our files regularly, which saved a tremendous amount of
data, but it could not regain the time we lost.
The worst part about the explosion was learning a new term while
technical support helped us rebuild from the system files up: JOOTT
(just one of those things). It's bad enough these things happen,
but the fact that they are expected, and even accepted as part of
life, is frightening.
A NECESSARY EVIL?
We know what you're thinking. "Hold it. These guys love this stuff.
Why are they biting the hand that feeds them?" Well, we do love it.
Technology makes our lives much, much better. And we want you to
love it, not dread it. We all have to plan for the disasters. When
the world of computers threatens to implode your brain, well,
pretend you're Bill Gates. He didn't slink off the stage at COMDEX,
muttering under his breath about whose heads would roll. He quipped
that the program still needed some development and continued his
speech, while an assistant fired up the backup unit.
As meeting professionals, we know about having Plan D ready. We
need to have the same safeguards in place with these technological
marvels we rely on so heavily. To give yourself the best chance of
success, learn as much as you can about the systems you use. Read
the manuals (gasp!). Take classes. Try to fix something yourself
instead of becoming overly reliant on tech support. You may think
you don't have the time to devote to these studies, but you don't
know what unproductive time is until you've spent hours trying to
resuscitate your computer.
Next, invest now to speed up your online access. Faster modems
are pretty inexpensive when you factor in the time you now spend
waiting for files to load. Look into other technologies like ISDN
and cable, too. They may sound expensive, but, again, calculate in
the value of your time.
If you fear your employees will waste time on the Net or with
e-mail, protect the company with a good policy regarding the use of
these technologies. Also, invest in e-mail software that can filter
out spam and other time-wasters.
Finally, back up your data carefully. We lost files because we
thought we knew where all the data was stored, but a key file was
in a different directory - one we hadn't backed up to save time. We
learned, and now have a fail-safe system in place.
Just like Bill Gates.Rodman Marymor, CMP, and
Jeffrey Rasco, CMP, are partners in San Francisco and Austin,
Texas-based HMR Associates, providing technology solutions for the
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