Friday, August 12, 2011

Triumph of Low-Tech

I was fortunate enough to interview LegalZoom CEO John Suh last month. (Scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page and you can watch our interview in full.)

This was my first time live on the Internet and there were some technology glitches. (I attend lectures at CalTech, and even the world's top geniuses grapple with technology bugs, so I'm in good company.)

But it was a low-tech trick and long years of experience that saved me from disaster. Here's what happened:

We tested the iPad I was to use to take questions from a live audience online. But we tested it about 90 minutes early. By the time we were live, the iPad had been thrown offline by a Wi-Fi security program that none of us knew about, nor anticipated.

I didn't know what was wrong with this cute little gadget, but I knew I wasn't getting any questions from the audience. And half the program was supposed to be questions from the audience!

Fortunately, I knew from experience to prepare about three times as many questions as I could use. Also fortunately, I insisted on keeping my trusty yellow legal pad in front of me. iPad, schmiPad - I need to scribble during interviews.

Thank goodness I had it there: As I was trying to decide on my next question and listen and interact with John as he talked, I managed to scrawl a "Help!" note and pass it to the tech team. As I tap-danced away, getting deep into my "extra" questions for John, the fantastic tech guys spirited away the iPad and fixed it.

People who watched the session live had no idea anything untoward was happening. I was sweating bullets underneath what looked like a calm exterior. John just soldiered on with terrific insights and innovative thinking.

Despite the near-disaster, it was a lot of fun to do the interview. I'll be doing another one next week, with the equally fascinating Tim Berry of Palo Alto Software.

You can be sure my pen and paper will be within arm's reach.


  1. You're so calm and collected!

    I've been thinking of using LegalZoom for some stuff. Now I will.

  2. My husband pointed out afterwards that I would have been completely professional and said something like, "Well, I'm not getting any questions here, so we'll get this technical glitch fixed and meanwhile let's talk about ... "

    Yes, I could have done that. Did it occur to me? No way.

    I come from the "never let 'em see you sweat" stiff upper lip, "nothing's wrong here - move along!" school of life. Sometimes it's served me well and other times ... not so much!