When faced with delivering presentations, I believe we are all subject to a supernatural experience unlike any other.  Although it doesn’t dramatically alter PowerPoint slides, this force has the ability to affect any demo that you give in your presentation; regardless of the topic you are presenting or how simple/difficult you believe the demo is. 

This is the work of the Demo Gods.  You’d better be wary as they strike at any time and have some amazing powers, including the ability to:

-          Make your machine totally incompatible with any projector

-          Disable the ‘LCD -> Projector’ switch key on your laptop

-          Double the amount of time your laptop takes to reboot before a presentation

-          Hide icons and Start Menu items

-          Triple the amount of time applications require to start

-          Radically alter the behavior of the application you are demo-ing five minutes before attendees are due to arrive

-          Turn a normal looking window to a ‘frozen white window with an hour glass’ with the click of a button

-          Generate meaningless error messages that you’ve never experienced

-          Summon all available IP addresses from the subnet your demo machine is plugged into

Beware that the demo gods also communicate to each other using exactly the same SSID and wireless frequency that your demo laptop is running on (so don’t even consider anything that depends on that wireless network). 

Seriously, to combat this powerful force I have even resorted to recording my demos using HyperCam so that I can play them back in Windows Media Player at the moment that they strike.  Not as effective I’ll admit, but it’s helped save my feedback scores on a number of occasions, I can tell you.

There are however very rare times when the moons are in line and the Demo Gods are on your side.  I witnessed such an event yesterday at a SAF (Strategic Architect Forum) we were holding in Japan.  I’ve been working on delivering a demo that shows how we can interoperate with existing host-based applications in order to generate Web services in C# and VB.NET.  As I tend not to have the capacity to carry and configure an AS/400 with me for each presentation (the airlines tend not to like it), I have to put my neck on the line and rely on a network connection in order to show this. 

Having been told that there was no network connection in the hotel conference room I was presenting in (and not knowing enough Japanese to ask any more details), I conceded that I would simply show my pre-recorded AVI of the demo that I recorded a few weeks earlier.    A few minutes before the presentation was to begin however, I stumbled across a cellular PCMCIA card (a spare one was being passed around the speaker room for the obligatory checking of Email).  I had a thought, and knew that if the Demos Gods were with me I may just pull this off… 

We were half way through the presentation.  Instead of firing up the AVI file at the time of the demo, I dialed in to the cellular service (NTT DoCoMo) from my laptop.  Despite a little interference with the wireless microphone (hey, they weren’t going to let me off that easily), it worked.  I opened a Microsoft Virtual PC image and created a shared NAT bridge between the network adapter on the Virtual PC and the host PC.  That worked too – and without a reboot! - I had an IP address and could browse the Web.  Now the real test…  After unlocking the ports via a Checkpoint FW-1 script, I loaded Clientsoft’s ServiceBuilder in the Virtual PC, opened Visual Studio.NET and ‘commanded’ it to record a session to an external IP address over port 707.  The green screen paused…  I figured they were teasing me… and then burst into life, displaying the application that was running on a mainframe in Miami.  I recorded the session, generated the Web service and invoked it from a Windows Form.  

It worked.  I was stunned.  The audience was stunned (I think<g>).  So, if ever there was one, I conclude that this is a fine example of how with the right mix of technology and a blessing from the Demo Gods it can all work out in the end.  

(Hmmm….   I’ve thinking about this though.  By exposing them I could be risking my TechEd demo in May…   Now where did that HyperCam icon go?)