Slides: what happens when they don’t work….

It was an absolute catastrophe. I was on a weekend road trip doing a shoulder workshops for a group of physiotherapists in Wollongong (south of Sydney) on the Saturday, and in Newcastle (north of Sydney) on the Sunday. The venues were about 4 hours drive from each other.

My workshop was structured around (wait for this, it will date me) a slide presentation spanning three carousels. Remember them? The circular slide cartridges that dropped 35mm slides into a projector. These are in the days way before data projectors and PowerPoint.

Anyway, Saturday went very well, finished up and drove to Newcastle that evening. Got to the venue ready to set up for the Sunday event and the venue had done a great job, the projector and screen were ready, the whiteboard, chairs, coffee station all good. So I started to unpack…. only to find my slide carousels were missing. Well not missing as it turned out, just sitting back down in Wollongong. And 15 minutes to showtime for 50 participants.

I had no back-up plan. I couldn’t cancel the event as people had flown in or driven some distance. I went through the Kubler-Ross stages of loss: denial (they must be in here somewhere), anger (who forgot to pack them? what a disaster), bargaining (asking my assistant to retrieve them somehow for the after lunch session at least), acceptance (well, they are really missing) and finally onto resolution – I will do the whole day without them. I got through the five stages in about five minutes because I had to.

I never used those slides again. Never. Not because I didn’t recover them, but because it was the best day of teaching I had ever done. Robbed of my slides, all I had was me. So I told my stories, showed my techniques, discussed with the audience, jumped all over the usual program sequence to meet the demands of the group and received the best feedback ever.

Now, some fifteen years later, I still do a similar (updated) workshop for physiotherapists and I still don’t use any slides. Instead, I teach. I talk, demonstrate, joke,  listen, review, monitor, correct and encourage.

This teaching sure beats giving a great slide show.