Let's face it: Speaking at a convention isn't easy. No matter how many times you've done it, there's always that underlying fear you'll end up looking like a fool in front of a crowded room.
Just ask Larry Marks, who was was hosting a panel and feeling good about it. He'd done this before, after all, and an audience of 200 was no reason for rattled nerves. Marks's problem, it turns out, was that he was slightly too comfortable.
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"I was talking away, leaning back in my chair -- you know, as my mother always told me not to," Marks recalls.
Marks probably should have listened to his mother's advice. While balancing on his chair's rear legs, Marks toppled over backward -- midsentence. You'd better believe every set of eyes in the room was trained right on him.
"As I was falling, I really didn't know what to do," he laughs. "It was kind of a world-class embarrassing moment."
Marks, unscathed from his fall, did the only thing he could think of: He kept right on talking, acting as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. "Of course, everybody started laughing," Marks says. "I finally stopped and said, 'What's so funny?'"
Marks clearly recovered from his potentially humiliating mistake. Thankfully for him, no one in the room had a video camera rolling -- so the moment lives on only in memory, not on YouTube.
Tech conferences may be filled with professional development, but they're also filled with after-hours socializing. Not surprisingly, given the out-of-town hotel-centric nature of the events, that socializing can sometimes lead to romantic rendezvous -- you know, of the single-night variety.
That's what happened to Sarah, a 30-something IT professional who attended a tech event with a few of her colleagues. Sarah and her coworkers got together for drinks on the first evening of the conference, and she ended up meeting someone at the hotel bar. Sarah, to put it delicately, did not return to her own room that night.
"I'd never done anything like that, but I was in Vegas, was single, and hardly knew anyone there -- so I kind of threw caution to the wind, I guess, against my better judgment," she says.
Sarah didn't think much of her encounter; the man was from another city, somewhere far away, and they weren't likely to cross paths again. Or so she thought.
"A day later, I was scheduled to do a discussion panel about virtualization. I get to the room, and guess who else is standing at the front?" she asks. Yep, you guessed it: the romantic stranger himself. Only this time, he was wearing a wedding ring -- and a name tag.
"Not only was he married, but he was a pretty well-known exec from another company," Sarah says. "I'd only gotten his first name before and hadn't made the connection."
Save for a few irritated glares, Sarah stayed composed and survived the session. Then she made an awkwardly fast exit from the room. "The whole thing sounds like something from a soap opera," she admits. "I definitely wouldn't let something like that happen again."
Robin Raskin knows a thing or two about tech conference slipups. Raskin, founder of Living in Digital Times, created the Last Gadget Standing contest at the Consumer Electronics Show. The event showcases the latest and greatest products from the convention and lets audience members vote on their favorites.