How Instant Messaging + Hosting a Webinar = Career Disaster

This information is from my new book, The Ultimate Business Continuity Success Guide: How to Build Real-World Resilience and Unleash Exciting New Value Streams. Happily it is now Amazon’s #1 searched business continuity book. I hope you enjoy the chapter. and the book. Please beware, this tip applies to all businesses not only the business continuity profession.

Business Continuity Tips, Techniques and Secrets

How Instant Messaging + Hosting a Webinar = Career Disaster

During your career you will do a lot of instant messaging and you will host a lot of webinars. But please be forewarned, mixing the two can be toxic to your career if you are not careful. Please read on…

I have witnessed the following scenario play out many times during my career. Sometimes it sits in waiting for a few years but then BOOM there it is again and again. In each case the person that fell into the insidious trap was smart and savvy but somehow it just happened. The outcomes were really embarrassing and in some cases career damaging. Other times, it was sort of humorous. I could see this happening to me and I never want it to happen to you. So, if you use an instant messenger product like Slack or Skype for Business you might want to invest a couple of minutes scanning this tale. Names have definitely been changed to protect the embarrassed.

Our tale begins innocently enough, like any of the zillions of webinar meetings I have hosted or attended throughout my career. Having had responsibility for business resilience / continuity programs that spanned thousands of domestic and international locations on every continent except Antarctica, I have done a lot of webinar meetings at all hours of the day and night.

I really enjoy webinars. Through webinars I get to cover a lot more ground and save a lot of money rather than globe-hopping. I also get to be with my family and sleep in my bed, which is a nice comfort.

Once upon a time in a land not so far away there was a  Kickoff Meeting for an offsite work area recovery exercise being planned for our Oklahoma locations. Eleven Oklahoma high ranking senior executives were on this webinar plus three Enterprise IT Directors (Ellen, Jim and Bob) who would support the business from the systems side throughout the exercise.

The plan was for Sam Otto, our Midwest Director of Business Continuity to host this webinar. Sam had hands-on experience recovering to our third-party recovery site vendor and he always did a great job. He motivated people to attend the exercise with the coolest breakfasts and lunches you could imagine. Donuts, bagels, pizza, wings, scrumptious salads, sandwiches, beverages and desserts. He was great with people and made it a lot of fun.

At the last minute, Charles ‘Don’t Call Me Charlie’ Ego-Smith, the Global Business Continuity Senior Vice President, decided to grand-stand Sam. He demanded the reins to the webinar. Pulled a last-minute power-play and made himself the host and presenter. You have probably seen the move at some point in your career. I guess the old saying, ‘be careful what you wish for‘, has some truth to it – read on and let me know if you agree…

So, Charlie, I mean Charles, begins hosting the session and greets all of the attendees. Hey, good so far! He starts showing some slides in the PowerPoint presentation and he fields a few questions, comments and requests from the Oklahoma executives. The usual easy to handle requests such as, ‘what if we are too busy to do the exercise’, ‘what if we recover all of our processes from home’, ‘what if we have high profile visitors that month?’ Hey you can’t blame them for trying. You are probably thinking to yourself, ‘been there – heard that!’ But luckily our experienced team had anticipated the push-back. Fortunately, Senior Management ‘had our backs’ and committed that all processes must participate – so these were just softball requests, ‘easy-peasy’ to handle. But wait, we are just getting started!

Now the fireworks begin. Bob, one if the Enterprise IT directors started asking a bunch of questions. Well, Charles had somewhat of a history with Bob from previous exercises and did not take kindly to Bob’s string of questions. Charles started getting defensive and while Bob was speaking Charles started IM’ing. He’s firing off one instant message after another to me and our teammate Sam. This book is PG rated so I am not going to use the gutter words he used when referring to Bob, but here is the PG version;

‘This idiot Bob is the biggest pain in the ass that I ever worked with’; ‘he doesn’t know shit’, ‘he never shuts up’, ‘I want to go over to his office and kick his ass…!’

Unfortunately, Charles had control of the webinar and was sharing his screen so every message he sent was seen by all of the attendees! Yeah, everyone including Bob and the Senior Oklahoma executives! We could not instant message him to stop as everyone would have seen our warnings, so we tried to call Charles’ cell phone and text him but he did not pick up. He just kept firing ridiculously embarrassing IM messages and I guess we were all so stunned we just sat there bewildered. We finally bit the bullet and IM’d him to STOP ALREADY!!! Whoa, talk about an embarrassing silence!

I really felt sorry for Bob. He is a good guy. Deservedly, Charlie ‘Yes I am going to call you CHARLIE’ got in big time hot water after the webinar with upper management. For one reason or another he only lasted another year or so at our company. Maybe this event played a part in his demise.

So, the morale is, if you use IM – turn it off during a webinar if you are the host. If you must use it, be really careful what you say, who you say it to and pray nothing embarrassing or personal is sent to you for everyone to see.

Quick Update – During the writing of this book I participated on many webinars with enterprise software vendors trying to sell me expensive solutions. Most of the vendors had their IM going while doing webinars and training. Some very embarrassing things came flying across our screens. You learn a lot reading those messages when they pop-up on the presenters’ screen, both personal and business related.

My advice to employees and vendors is to sign-out of IM before hosting a webinar. Otherwise, it just might destroy your credibility and possibly your career.

I hope you enjoyed the information in this chapter. We go into a lot more detail in The Ultimate Continuity Success Guide. In fact, this is only one of 112 chapters packed with 1001 tips, techniques, ideas and those important lessons-learned. Have fun and please contact me with any questions!