What I mean by this is that you should turn your computer on, but don’t do it when you are up in front of an audience about to give a presentation. If at all possible, do it before then. Why? You will see the reason why in just a moment. But just to clarify, I fully support the idea of turning your computer on. It is a most useful and productive action. It just can be done at the wrong time, with bitter consequences.
Here’s a scenario that will invariably occur if you start giving powerpoint presentations. If it hasn’t happened yet, be assured…it will happen at least once, or perhaps several times (as in my case).
You have everything worked out beautifully. Perhaps right before it is your turn to speak you got your computer turned on, found your powerpoint and you have it all ready. You just have to plug that little cord into it, and you will be set. So you walk up to the front, so confident that you’ve prepared this presentation better than anyone else ever could.
And the cord doesn’t work. You and maybe some other people fiddle around with it, trying to get it to work. You keep at this for a few minutes while your audience is growing a bit restless. They are trying to be patient but are, nonetheless, restless. Finally someone says they have it figured out. Now you must just restart your computer and it will be fine.
Easier said than done.
So you push the “restart” button and your screen goes blank. Then a moment later it comes back. And here’s where it get horrible. If you are a careful person, you will have your computer password protected. And so you’ll have to type in your password, in front of all those people. And remember, your screen is now being projected on to another screen. Not just any screen, but the screen the size of a wall. And it isn’t behind your audience but directly in front of them. They can’t help but watch what you are doing. So you type in your password, wondering miserably why you didn’t pick some other more complicated one, and that maybe someone in the room has already figured out what it is. So your desktop background shows up, and then other things show up, little by little. But about the background. Maybe you have some really silly background picture. So what will they think of you now? You’re the learned expert on economics, and you have a picture of something absolutely childish and ridiculous on your desktop. (This part about the background has been made up…I can imagine it happening to someone else. I for one, have very beautiful and sensible backgrounds and so I’d never be caught in such a position. And because of that, I can’t give you an example of a terrible background to have while standing in front of an audience about to give a speech. You’ll just have to imagine the worst thing possible and insert it into the story.)
And you know how some programs come up automatically when you start your computer? You might have 5 or 6 little symbols bouncing up and down on your dock. Ahhh…if only it were that simple…but it isn’t. For all those bouncing things are going to open up. And it gets bad. Really bad. So here, on the giant screen in front of all those people, your Limewire program pops up. I have this odd impression that Limewire is the sort of program everyone uses but pretends they don’t. So I imagine all those people sitting there thinking, “Omg, that girl has LIMEWIRE??!! She’s nearly a criminal! And we’re going to listen to her talk about the criminals at the Federal Reserve? What a hypocrite!” And then the screen pops up, “Upgrade your Limewire to Premium and enjoy…” and I push the button, “no thanks.” So now they think that not only am I nearly a criminal, I’m a really cheap criminal who won’t even pay for this. Never mind that all criminals don’t pay for whatever it is they are stealing. It just makes it worse that I haven’t upgraded to the Premium. It is like I’m trying to get something for nothing. So then once I exit that screen, the list of my Limewire songs shows up. Now in all reality, the titles are probably too small for my audience to see, but that doesn’t make any difference. It feels like they are reading them, and that is what counts. “What? This economist listens to Josh Groban?? I thought she was better than that. I thought she wasn’t into all that teen girl pop music junk. She’s really just like my granddaughter! And I’m supposed to learn something about economics from her?” Yeah. Um. Okay, so I exit Limewire as quickly as possible, and hiding behind it, like a monster peering out from behind a rock, ready to eat you up, is Skype. Now, I only have about 3 Skype friends. I don’t know why. I don’t use Skype much, so I never bothered to look for other people. I know that many of my friends are on Skype, but I just never connected with them there. So you can imagine how short my list of friends is. And that is what makes it worse. If I had 346 friends on there, the audience would instantly be overwhelmed by the sheer number of names and not really see anything distinct. But with 3 friends, they are instantly drawn to the one friend with a status message because it stands out so much. And it just happens that the status of this friend is something like, “I crave pepto-bismol ice cream.” Now what will they think of me? “Wow, this girl has some really silly friends. She was so promising, but now look at her…” It is almost like I’m standing up there in front listening to an iPod and texting 23 friends at one time while browsing Facebook and MySpace.
It is so awfully awkward because I have this intense desire to explain it all to them. “People, listen. I’m not like you think. I’m really above all that. I really don’t eat pepto-bismol ice cream. And I listen to Josh Groban only once every 2 weeks. It really isn’t like you think it is. It isn’t my fault that all these things are here…” But that seems so ridiculous because I don’t actually know that they are thinking about me like that. Maybe they’re thinking, “oh, what a nice girl she is, she must really know her economics because after all, she listens to Josh Groban.” And so I can’t really assume what they are thinking and then respond to that assumption. So instead I just pretend that they aren’t looking at the screen and all that. Like at dinner when someone does something embarrassing it is just easier to pretend you never noticed instead of being drawn into the embarrassment. It is this tacit agreement that, “I’ll pretend I didn’t see, and you can then pretend it never happened.”
Now on my old PC, this is what would happen next: I’d open up My Documents, and so everyone would get to peer into my files while I was searching for the powerpoint. I usually would know exactly where it is, but after all this stress, my mind is blank and I have no clue where it is. “Okay, so she’s made a powerpoint about the Federal Reserve and she doesn’t even know where it is?? How could she have any information for us that we don’t already know?” And then I eventually find it and click on it…and it doesn’t open. I click it again, fearing that the worse is about to happen. Nothing happens. And then the screen freezes. I’m desperately clicking it with all my strength, which only serves to confuse it more and make it freeze up into a more helpless state. Soon the only recourse is for me to turn it off and start all over again…
And with my new Macbook Pro, this is what happens next: I just do a handy little search for the powerpoint, because somehow, magically, with a Macbook Pro, I remember the name of the file, and it is such a fast search too. So I click on the file, and the little podium on the dock starts bouncing. And they think, “oh, this is kinda cute! And she really knows what she’s doing!” So then it takes a moment to load, but I’m patient because, well, this is a Mac. It opens, I click play, and the intended show begins. I say “intended show” because everything up to this point has been a show, just not the one I had planned.
So that’s why you should never, ever be forced to turn your computer on when in front of an audience. It is a terrible cruelty. Especially since you are forced to go on and give your speech as if nothing ever happened, as if they haven’t just discovered you have “LIMEWIRE!!!” and listen to Josh Groban and have some friends who appear very silly.
Note: This post has obviously been taken from real life. There’s some reality in it, mixed with an abundance of my imagination. So if you are someone in this post, please don’t be offended. After some of these presentations, when I expect to be shunned, everyone is most friendly and nice, so after reflection I can see that perhaps my feelings are a bit exaggerated. Please don’t take this personally, the only person I’m making fun of in this post is me. So unless you are me (if you are me, please let me know, because that would prove that something is terribly wrong with me. No, I can’t say “me” because if you are me, than I’m not “me”…oh well, you get the point) don’t worry, I know you are very nice and not prone to judging people based on the songs they’ve downloaded from Limewire…