Public Speaking Tip 4 : Have a disaster recovery plan!


My first presentation for UKOUG was at a Special Interest Group (SIG). I was invited to speak by Andrew Clarke, who at the time was the chairman of that SIG. I admitted I was a complete newbie and asked for some advice. Being a seasoned speaker, he gave me lots of good advice, but one of main things he told me was to have a disaster recovery plan. As it turns out, that was one of the best bits of advice I could have received so early in the game. Andrew is a really nice bloke and a great speaker. When I met him again at this years UKOUG event in Manchester I asked if I could take a picture with him, because I’m such a fanboy. 🙂


Presenting can be a nerve-racking experience. Even when you have a backup plan, when something goes wrong you still feel like a bit of you has died. Without a backup plan, it would feel like a world ender. 🙂 Just like in your job, disaster recovery is about dealing with the unexpected. It gives you one less thing to worry about. I’ll illustrate why it is important with a few examples of things that have happened to me over the years.

  • At an ORCAN conference in 2009 I was sitting in the session before mine, so I tried to start the VM I use for demos and it wouldn’t start. I use a lot of demos, so life was not going to be fun. Fortunately I had a backup of the VM, so I overwrote the VM and it started fine. A quick run through some of the demos and life was good. I got finished with the recovery about 5 minutes before my session started.
  • At an OUGF conference in 2009 my laptop died, so I had to present on someone else’s. I was not able to run any demos, but I had a text representation of the expected output for each demo, so I could at least talk through something when presenting off a memory stick.
  • At UKOUG 2011, I screwed up my demo VM before presenting about Clonedb, so I had to use my article to show what should have happened. That talk was described by someone on Twitter as “a mess“, so the backup plan was not all it should have been. 🙂
  • At the Montevideo, Uruguay leg of the OTN Latin America Tour last year I accidentally dropped all the tables in the SCOTT schema as I started my demo. I couldn’t remember the name of the script to recreate SCOTT (utlsampl.sql), panic does that to you sometimes, so I presented the examples using the article I had written that goes along with the presentation.

Notice how all my major disasters have been about demos being screwed. Having live demos is a nice thing, but not without its risks. 🙂

So for peace of mind, you really need to consider what you are going to do if things go wrong.

  • Keep a copy of your presentation on a memory stick.
  • Keep a copy of your presentation somewhere you can download it, just in case.
  • If you have demonstrations, have some way of replacing them if they are not working for some reason. Text output, screen shots or even better video capture of the demos is a great idea.

If you are lucky, you will never need them. If you are unlucky, you will be glad you made the effort!

Check out the rest of the series here.



Author: Tim...

DBA, Developer, Author, Trainer.

10 thoughts on “Public Speaking Tip 4 : Have a disaster recovery plan!”

  1. One thing on demos…

    (If possible) script them up and have them re-runnable – sort of like a unit test – they setup everything they need and destroy everything once done…

    That way…even if you get halfway through a demo and its goes wrong (or you may simply go off-topic) then you can simply “start from the top” with your demo rather than that awkward feeling of a demo going off the rails

  2. thank you Tim for this set of blog entries, always very useful to confront your own practice with others and get additional ideas!

    For the live demos and for some years, I record them with a screen capture software (I have used both Mac OS X QuickTime player and Windows Camstudio), it enables me to first make sure that my demo go well and in time and second it gives me a disaster recovery solution playable on any other device than my laptop).


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