While I was bombasting about the Valdez oil spill in 1989, one of those ubiquitous internet fairies decided that I did not really need the network connection at my remote office. Sadly this meant that the attendees on my Webinar had to listen only to me speaking without seeing the pretty diagrams I made for the occasion (after a short delay to switch audio mode).
Though I have all sorts of redundancies built in to Webinar presentations (seriously, I use a checklist every time), I have not prepared for the complete loss of network access, which is what happened during my March 20th, 2014 Webinar. I’m not going to use the term “root cause”, because I still had another plan . . . (yep, that failed, too).
For our mutual amusement (and because I get asked for this all the time), here is a Cause Map, or visual root cause analysis – the very method I was demonstrating during the failure – of what happened.
First we start with the what, when and where. No who because blame isn’t the point, though in this case I will provide full disclosure and clarify that I am, in fact, writing about myself. The Webinar in question was presented on March 20, 2014 at 2:00 PM EST (although to my great relief the issues didn’t start until around 2:30 pm). That little thorn in my side? It was the loss of a network connection at the Wisconsin remote office (where I typically present from). I was using Citrix Online’s GoToWebinar© program to present a root cause analysis case study of the Valdez oil spill online.
Next we capture the impact to the organization’s (in this case, ThinkReliability) goals. Luckily, in the grand scheme of things, the impacted goals were pretty minor. I annoyed a bunch of customers who didn’t get to see my slides and I scheduled an additional Webinar. Also I spent some time doing follow-up to those who were impacted, scheduling another Webinar, and writing this blog.
Next we start with the impacted goals and ask “Why” questions. The customer service goal was impacted because of the interruption in the Webinar. GoToWebinar© (as well as other online meeting programs) has two parts: audio and visual. I temporarily lost audio as I was using the online option (VOIP), which I use as a default because I like my USB headset better than my wireless headset. The other option is to dial in using the phone. As soon as I figured out I had lost audio, I switched to phone and was able to maintain the audio connection until the end of the Webinar (and after, for those lucky enough to hear me venting my frustration at my office assistant).
In addition to losing audio, I lost the visual screen-sharing portion of the Webinar. Unlike audio, there’s only one option for this. Screen sharing occurs through an online connection to GoToWebinar©. Loss of that connection means there’s a problem with the GoToWebinar© program, or my network connection. (I’ve had really good luck with GoToWebinar; over the last 5 years I have used the program at least weekly with only two connection problems attributed to Citrix.) At this point I started running through my troubleshooting checklist. I was able to reconnect to audio, so it seemed the problem was not with GoToWebinar©. I immediately changed from my wired router connection to wireless, which didn’t help. Meanwhile my office assistant checked the router and determined that the router was not connected to the network.
You will quickly see that at this point I reached the end of my expertise. I had my assistant restart the router, which didn’t work, at least not immediately. At this point, my short-term connection attempts (“immediate solutions”) were over. Router troubleshooting (beyond the restart) or a call to my internet provider were going to take far longer than I had on the Webinar.
Normally there would have been one other possibility to save the day. For online presentations, I typically have other staff members online to assist with questions and connection issues, who have access to the slides I’m presenting. That presenter (and we have done this before) could take over the screen sharing while I continued the audio presentation. However, the main office in Houston was unusually short-staffed last week (which is to say most everyone was out visiting cool companies in exciting places). And (yes, this was the wound that this issue rubbed salt in), I had been out sick until just prior to the Webinar. I didn’t do my usual coordination of ensuring I had someone online as my backup.
Because my careful plans failed me so completely, I scheduled another Webinar on the same topic. (Click the graphic below to register.) I’ll have another staff member (at another location) ready online to take over the presentation should I experience another catastrophic failure (or a power outage, which did not occur last week but would also result in complete network loss to my location). Also, as was suggested by an affected attendee, I’ll send out the slides ahead of time. That way, even if this exact series of unfortunate events should recur, at least everyone can look at the slides while I keep talking.
To view my comprehensive analysis of a presentation that didn’t quite go as planned, please click “Download PDF above. To view one of our presentations that will be “protected” by my new redundancy plans, please see our upcoming Webinar schedule.