I went to see Scott Hanselman speak this week that was organised by the excellent Layla Porter of MK.net fame. I'd volunteered to be a helper at the event to do any odd jobs that needed to be taken care of since we were expecting 100+ people to an event that only usually has 30-40 people attend. At the very last minute, the venue was changed. Which meant that they had to hold the event in an unusual room and the AV setup was a mystery.
When I arrived, I saw Layla furiously pointing a remote control at a screen, cursing the AV trying to diagnose the million and one reasons why the HDMI input in the middle of the room wasn't projecting to either of the two screens in the room.
She saw me and said, "How are you with AV Martin, I haven't got time for this right now". "OK," I said. But secretly I was thinking. "Well Layla, I consider AV a superpower of mine, I carry every type of dongle, and I wired my own seamless switcher… I'm the Macgyver of HDMI".
You see, I've been to a lot of venues over the years, and a projector has never bested me yet. I know display driver options and settings on all three major operating systems, and I know my way around an HDMI switcher and splitter. So I took the remote control, quietly confident I was of use.
I started work on deducing why the laptop wouldn't connect to the screen. Layla went back to doing all the other 100 jobs she needed to be doing, and I felt a slight wave of satisfaction that I had helped elevate at least one of the items on her to-do list.
I was joined by Shahid Iqbal a Co-organiser of MK.Net, and while I tried to figure out what input the projects were listening on, he went hunting for the switchers/splitter. Within the space of 5 minutes Shahid had found and sorted out the splitter, and I'd got the projectors displaying the input.
But the HDMI cable was too short. I went on a hunt around the building. I found a slightly longer HDMI cable, but alas it was still too short. I looked in my bag, but because I wasn't speaking, I hadn't brought my full AV kit. All I needed was a single HDMI coupler to join the cables together to make a cable long enough to reach a table at the front of the room.
There is however a law in IT. I call It "Maplins Law" If you ever get more than 100 IT people in a room, on average you will be able to source any item from the Maplins catalogue within 15 minutes. So I shouted out. "Has anyone got an HDMI coupler on them?". Sounds stupid right? No one carries couplers with them to a meetup.
But then… Joe put his hand up. " I have one in the car" and it that breath he proved Maplin's Law. God bless you Joe, you beautiful human being.
We now had a working projector. I'd managed to scavenge some power leads, and cable tidies from other rooms in the building, and we were all set… Except we needed a lapel mic as Scott would be live coding. But the venue didn't have one.
No problem. I carry a Lapel Mic at all times. We can run a cable to the audio mixer, and we are golden. Except they'd put the mixer in a locked box in the top corner of the room and no-one had a key.
In the end, we found some paperclip holders that could double as microphone stands for the handheld microphones that they had available.
It might sound ridiculous, but this I why I love community technology events. People are resourceful and it fills my heart with joy.
The meetup was awesome. While the AV was not what you'd necessarily hope for, Scott had a lot of experience and was able to work with what he got. He bumped up his fonts to compensate for the rather small projectors and made light of the microphones, doing a whole skit about there quality… which is the hallmark of a professional. The show must go on, and you have to work with what you are given.