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Minimizing your Technology Headache

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As a young-ish person with an iPhone and a rudimentary understanding of how computers work, I’m frequently called upon to manage technology needs for conferences and events.  Now, this isn’t as glamorous as it sounds (if it sounds glamorous at all).  It doesn’t mean I build websites or software or anything that impressive.  It means…that I plug things in, I change projector bulbs, I check to make sure printers connect with computers.  It’s all very mundane.  But, it’s also necessary.  Needless to say, I’m not a big fan of any of these tasks, but since they need to happen I have come up with a few ways to make the experience as efficient, enjoyable, and smooth (I could have used another “e” word there) as possible.

 1)  Go Wireless. Wireless printers are the best thing since sliced bread.  If you are going to be printing confirmations, receipts, signs, etc. onsite and you have to bring your own printer…invest in a wireless printer.  Now, you should definitely sync your computer and printer before the event.  Test it.  Make sure it works.  And then sit back and enjoy the wonder of not freaking out over having forgotten all of your precious cords!   2)  INK DRIES OUT.  I have to say, before I started having to lug printers around with me I had no idea that an ink cartridge could dry out.  I always used them up before that became a possibility.  However, when you only use a printer for an occasional off-site conference ink cartridges can dry up.  A week before your event you may want to test out those print heads and make sure you are in good shape.  It’s better to find out you need new ink before an event than during.

 3)  Simplify.  I see it all the time.  People are so excited to use a cool technology that they use it to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.  Technology is supposed to make our lives easier, not more burdensome.  Before you buy some neat piece of tech, think about whether or not your event will truly benefit from the purchase.

 4)  Charge your batteries and use your computers.  We bring a lot of laptops to conferences.  They all serve different purposes but they all only get used at conferences.  People tend to think that because a laptop isn’t used frequently, it should work whenever it is used.  Well, I don’t know if there is any truth in that, but it sure has not been my experience.  Computers require updates.  So does virus software.  Likewise, batteries die.  If you have your laptop long enough, you’ll likely have to replace either your battery or your power cord.  If you only occasionally use your computer, you won’t get a sense for when to replace your battery.  So, to save yourself some headache onsite, plug that computer in every once in a while…and definitely definitely definitely update your virus protection!

 5)  Back it up.  Save your conference files on either a flashdrive or the cloud or BOTH.  This way, when you forget a sign or realize a misspelling in a document, you can access it and make a fix with little trouble. 6)  Don’t sweat it.  Things go wrong.  That’s life.  You can plan for a lot of things but…not everything.  Sometimes bulbs burn out.  Computers break. A file is corrupted.  I find people are generally incredibly understanding in these situations.  If you have a technological failure and you level with people…they will likely show support and kindness.  If, on the other hand, you freak out and shift all energy to reacting to this misstep, you will likely only turn people off.  I presented at an event recently and had some trouble getting my presentation to appear on the screen.  Rather than search for blame or start panicking, I made a joke an asked my audience if any of them had any advice for me.  This was very well received and within just a few minutes, we were back in business.

Now, I should let you know that the great thing about Harpole’s Heartland Lodge is that, when you work with them, a lot of the traditional freak out moments like “WHAT DO YOU MEAN WE FORGOT TO BRING AA BATTERIES?!” are non-issues, because you are working with some of the nicest people around…and they help you make your event a success.

 Nicole Palmisano

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