A Moment Of Silence Becomes A Teachable Moment

Anthony Guerra, Editor-in-Chief, hsCIO.com

Anthony Guerra, Editor-in-Chief, hsCIO.com

“Stay calm, don’t panic.” I said to myself, looking at the phone. The line was still connected — I could see as much from the illuminated button on my phone and the fact that the timer was still running. But I couldn’t hear anything.

From the look of my computer screen, there was nothing wrong with the Webinar. Ed Marx’s slides kept advancing as if all was normal. Even my name still appeared in the Webex console showing I was logged on, with the little phone icon next to it showing I was still connected to the audio conference. Unfortunately, I couldn’t hear a thing.

“Stay calm, don’t panic,” I repeated.

Figuring the only thing to do was completely sever my phone connection and dial back in, I did just that. This time, though I could hear Ed talking, no one could hear me. Something was still wrong.

“Stay calm, don’t panic,” I repeated.

I quickly sent Kate a chat message through the Webex console indicating I’d been disconnected from the audio conference and asking her to step in as moderator. Unfortunately (as I found out later), Kate, who was calling in from a different location, had experienced the same disruption, leaving our speakers, Ed Marx, SVP/CIO at Texas Health Resources, and Tom Bartiromo, SVP/CIO/CTO at Barnabas Health, on their own.

Not surprisingly, they handled it like pros. When Ed verbally threw it back to me and I was nowhere to be found, he and Tom quickly came up with a plan B. Assuming I lost my connection, Tom began his presentation with Ed, who had control of the deck, moving his slides along.

After disconnecting one more time and dialing back in, I was finally able to join the audio conference, which is the only odd thing you’ll hear if listening to the archive. That’s because I spent the better part of the following morning teaching myself how to edit a .WMV using Windows Movie Maker, something I’d always been afraid to venture into. After some trial and error, I’ve gotten the file almost perfect. And I must admit there is nothing I enjoy more than learning something new which further empowers us for future projects.

After reflecting on the incident, we wrote up and distributed new emergency/backup webinar procedures. Now, instead of having Nancy, our director of sales and marketing, join as a regular attendee (so as to give us feedback on that part of the experience), she’ll also join as a panelist and thus constitute another hand on deck to jump into any breach. Hopefully all three of us — each calling in from a different location — won’t be disconnected from the same call. Technology, even a top-of-the-line platform like Cisco Webex, isn’t perfect all the time, and our procedures must take that into account.

Another takeaway came as the result of Ed and Tom’s conduct during the disruption. Sure, they could have taken my disappearance as a chance to move on with their day, something like, “Well, we’ve lost Anthony and Kate, so I guess we’ll have to end the event,” but they didn’t do that. They dug in, worked through the awkwardness, and hung in there until I got back. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that.

But the most important lesson is this: whether producing a Webinar or implementing new clinical software, all we can do is everything that we can do, and move forward. And that, if done well, will guard us against the catastrophic. As for fortune’s glancing blows, those we should relish, for it is only in their parrying that we inch towards excellence. What we can never do is let fear of such inevitable stumbles keep us from boldly venturing down paths that we must tread.


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