There are high-wire acts, like the ones where you string a cable between two cliffs and gingerly walk across, and there high-tech high-wire acts, where you try to demonstrate cutting-edge technology in front of a large live audience. Both have a high-degree of risk and a history of occasional failure.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella just experienced, perhaps, his first taste of high-profile demo failure and he managed it like a champ.
It was during Wednesday evening’s Salesforce Dreamforce conference keynote in San Francisco where the Microsoft CEO smoothly moved from a sit-down chat with Wired’s Jessi Hempel to a stand-up demo of Windows 10’s major business chops. Nadella wanted to show how the digital voice assistant Cortana could be used in business analytics. Fast forward to 10:31 for the action (or inaction).
He started by showing off a bit, letting Windows 10’s new Hello facial recognition login system recognize him, and then asked Cortana a crucial business and strategic question:
“Show me my most at-risk opportunities.”
The first translation that came back was “Show me to buy milk at this opportunity.” The audience laughed, but Nadella, undaunted, tried again.
“No, that’s not what I wanted,” he said and repeated the question.
Nadella could immediately see that Cortana was not getting it. “Come on,” he implored, the annoyance showing in his voice.
Finally he gave up and said, “No, this is not going to work.”
Fortunately, someone behind the scenes saved Nadella and managed to bring up the correct results. As for the Microsoft CEO, he barely lost a step and continued on with his lengthy, tech-filled presentation.
He likely learned his composure form the best. Witness Microsoft co-founder and former CEO Bill Gates handling a more catastrophic failure during a 1997 demo of Windows 98. He laughed, quipped and moved on.
Wear it like a badge of honor, Satya. Bill certainly did.
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