We don’t like to do anything halfway. When we commit to something, we are usually all in. So, when a scheduled webinar encountered problems yesterday, it wasn’t just a tiny meaningless glitch. It wasn’t just a fender bender. No, that webinar bus crashed and burned in a spectacular and fiery fashion. There were 620 souls aboard. 

Yesterday we had scheduled the webcast of the SAWCA National Workers’ Compensation Regulator Virtual Town Hall, which was a meeting recorded the day before, on Wednesday the 22nd. By all accounts the Wednesday meeting was a huge success. 91 people representing 35 states and sectors of the industry gathered in a Zoom meeting room and discussed the impact of COVID-19 on the nation’s regulatory agencies and industry as a whole. The regulators were quite candid with their responses, and people involved found the effort to be quite informative. 

Thursday’s publicly accessible webcast was supposed to have a brief live introduction given by yours truly, then the 85-minute video would be played. Many of the same regulators were online to engage with the public via the live chat area while the video played. If only it had worked as intended…..

Early investigations into the crash tell us it might have been a video encoding conflict with the webinar system software, but whatever the reason, the recorded video “froze” for the attendees just a few short seconds in. Unfortunately, it kept playing for me, so until the chat room lit up with comments regarding a “frozen” presentation, I was not aware there was an issue. I was blissfully driving along unaware that the wheels had started coming off the bus. 

We stopped the video and started a backup version (these “video injections” are pre-loaded on remote Amazon Cloud web servers intended to directly stream within the webinar itself) The backup version was a lower quality, smaller file that may be better for streaming, and had been loaded as a redundancy for just such an issue. That video also froze within a few seconds. Attempting to stop and restart the video only produced the same result. By this point the bus had careened off the road, rolled down a steep embankment, and crashed into a fireworks factory at the bottom of the hill.

And the comedians on board started telling jokes.

The webinar system has in what this case is the equivalent to a Cockpit Voice Recorder, or CVR. A review of the chatlog after the fact revealed some pretty funny comments on the ride down the hill. I had noticed a couple of them during the webinar, but was preoccupied at the time – you know, busy driving a bus off a cliff and all. The comments ranged from “Bob broke the internet,” to a request to have me start singing songs from the hit movie “Frozen.” That last one was apparently in reference to every time the video stopped, my ugly mug was left static on the screen. In fact, one comment was “glad my face isn’t frozen like that,” and another said, ”Frozen and your mug is front and center.” 

After several starts and stops, someone said “I’ve seen this episode.” And of course, there were two obligatory references to the movie Groundhog Day.

One person asked if she would be getting a refund. I told her afterwards that the check was in the email.

Another person even suggested the issue may be because my razor was broken. We are in crisis times here, people. My personal valet is in isolation. You actually expect a man to shave himself? Savages.

It was comforting to note that while I was trapped in the shattered and smoldering wreckage of my webinar, that people were still able to see the lighter side of life.

In reality, however, given the circumstances, everyone was extraordinarily gracious. When something goes wrong, the best strategy is to own the problem and not dwell on the negative. You need to look for a resolution first, and then figure out how to learn from any errors. And that is what we did. Within an hour or so we had emailed a direct link to the video to everyone who had been in the room, which was playing without a problem outside the webinar system environment.  

I’ve had more than a dozen emails since yesterday telling me how much they enjoyed the Regulator Town Hall, once people were actually able to see it. I highly recommend you watch it. It is available here.

We are talking about next steps, including the potential to try another effort to engage a chat function with the regulators. We will keep you posted on that. And finally, I want to thank Gary Davis at the Southern Association of Workers’ Compensation Administrators. Not only did they do a terrific job of assembling a truly national panel, he was also very gracious when it came to the technical issues we experienced.

And if you want to spend 13 painful minutes watching the shortest webinar we’ve ever produced, including that very active chat room activity during a spectacular crash, you can watch that here.


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