Isn’t It Ironic? Mistakes That Interrupted My Webinar About Mistakes


A contractor unplugged my WiFi router.

Or was there more to it than that? Instead of blaming somebody else, what mistakes did I make that led to the Q&A section of my webinar being knocked offline?

Yesterday, I presented a webinar for the KaiNexus Continuous Improvement webinar series, focused on the lessons and the themes from my podcast “My Favorite Mistake.”

My Favorite Mistake, Your Favorite Mistake? Learning From Mistakes as Individuals and Organizations

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And, about 50 minutes in, as I was answering the first question, I disappeared from the screens of the audience, leaving dead air and our host Morgan Wright left to try to pick up the pieces and wrap things up. It wasn't one of those momentary Zoom “cut out and reconnect immediately” problems. My internet was down long enough that the session was over.

As I tacked onto the end of the webinar recording, I'll do a separate Q&A recording that we will share with attendees and those who registered.

You can watch the webinar here:

What I Feared

So what went wrong, ironically enough, in a webinar about making mistakes?

Well, first off, let me share a few of the key points that I shared in the webinar:

  • We all make mistakes
  • How we react to mistakes (that we make or that others make) matters a lot (show some grace)
  • What matters is learning from our mistakes
  • Reflecting on what happened (and what we'd do differently next time) can lead to improvement and growth

As I mentioned at the end of the webinar, before Q&A, I had some trepidation about doing this webinar here in the end of June.

My wife and are I still in the process of relocating most of the way across the country for her new job. I've been pretty fully consumed the past two weeks by managing the move. The first week was getting packed up and moved out of the old place. The second week (last week), was dominated by the movers arriving and a number of deliveries and contractors who were in our new home to help us make small improvements and to start settling in.

Like I said in the session, I was worried that there would be some distraction that was likely to happen on June 27th — I just didn't know what it would be.

Distraction #1

Before the webinar, I had some painters back at our place to finish up a few touch ups and punch list items. They weren't going to be done by 12:45 pm when Morgan and I would have to get on the webinar in advance of starting, but they were prepared to wrap up and let themselves out soon after.

About ten minutes into the webinar, I heard the doorbell and a knock on the door.

Oh no.

I thought the painters had left something behind, like a phone or a wallet. So, I figured I had no choice but to excuse myself to go quickly open the door, interrupting the webinar briefly.

When I opened the door, I learned that it was not the painters. It was the guy who had hung TVs on the walls in a few rooms. He was back to finish up a few things. I expected he was coming back and I had even asked his boss if Monday would be OK… but he showed up unannounced and I wasn't expecting that.

Mistake: I didn't say, “Please come Monday except for between 12:45 and 2 pm.”

I told him that I was in the middle of a meeting, but he could come in (with his teenage son who is working with him over the summer) and do what they needed to do, since it was all in other rooms.

To his credit, Chris had tried calling and texting me, but my iPhone and my MacBook Pro were in “do not disturb” mode — preventing the mistake of being interrupted led to the mistake of me not seeing his text or his call, which meant he knocked and rang the doorbell.

Mistake: I think he did make a mistake, though, in not checking to see that I'd be home or available.

Had I seen a text, I would have been distracted, but maybe I could have texted back, “Please come back at 2:05 PM.”

Distraction #2

Maybe 20 minutes later, Chris thought he had to finish some work on the TV in my office. That TV actually required no follow-up work.

Mistake: His mistake was to just barge in (I don't remember if he even knocked). I had to turn around, distracted again, to wave him off.

Mistake: I wasn't crystal clear with his boss about which TVs required the final follow up work (but that wouldn't have been necessary to communicate in advance if Chris had come at a time that was good for me).

Mistake: My mistake might have been not telling him, when I let him in, “Hey, I'm presenting a webinar, which means I can't be interrupted… and by the way, the TV in that room is fine, but please just work on the other rooms.

When I first let him in, I was in a rush to get back to the webinar. It might have been better if I had taken 30 seconds longer to explain the situation more fully to him.

Killing the Q&A

So, we got to the Q&A portion of the webinar. Morgan had just asked me the first question from the audience. As I was answering the first question, I could tell there was an internet problem, as Morgan's video just froze. I wasn't sure if the problem was with her internet or mine, so I kept talking.

A minute later, I could tell that Zoom had disconnected me from the webinar. And, again, this didn't turn out to be momentary.

I gave up and realized the webinar was, at this point, just over. I could do some Q&A in a future recording.

I left the office to go talk to Chris and to check on this work. I was doing my best to stay calm and to “show some grace” with him, as I had been talking about in the webinar.

I did try to explain to Chris that it wasn't ideal that he just showed up without advance notice. I appreciated that he was following up on the final details of the work, but the timing was really really bad.

He was very apologetic about that and for coming into my office without asking.

I saw that he was working on the cabling / wiring for the living room TV, including the DirecTV receiver. I saw he was working near my internet WiFi router.

“Oh no… did you unplug my router????”

Mistake: That's why my internet went down. It wasn't an outage or a glitch with the service provider. Chris had indeed unplugged it.

Thinking back to the lessons about learning from mistakes:

  • He didn't intentionally kill my internet
  • He wasn't trying to interrupt the webinar
  • He didn't know, from first glance, that this device was a WiFi router (the white cylinder)

I mean, it has an ethernet cable leading into it, which should have perhaps been a clue.

At this point, I could really only just chuckle at the irony.

Again, Chris felt horrible about his mistake — that's, again, one of the points that I made in the webinar. People feel bad enough when they've made a mistake, what's the point of me getting upset or piling on or yelling? It would have been a mistake to get mad or to be disrespectful to him…

I'm quite certain that Chris will learn from these mistakes. I hope I do too!

I bet he won't repeat these mistakes with other customers… life goes on, but better. Onward and upward.

As my podcast guest Lenny Walls, a retired NFL cornerback said:

“[Failures are] Stepping stones towards winning.”

What I'll Do Differently

In the spirit of improvement and with the aim of not repeating mistakes, what will I do differently?

It's very likely that my wife and I will be moving again for her career. I should listen to my gut and not take on something like this when there's the risk of distraction or interruption. I've been saying “no, thanks” to quite a few offers and requests recently. I probably shouldn't have signed up for this one, at this time. The next time we move, I should block off a month as a “no new commitments zone.”

I won't feel pressured to have a KaiNexus webinar each and every month just because that's been the habit and the history. If it doesn't work out one month, so be it. I stepped in to offer to give this talk because my attempts at following up with a few other potential presenters didn't pan out (it's tough in the summertime).

If I am faced with a distraction during a webinar, I should do my best to ignore it. I shouldn't have gone and opened the door. Even if it had been one of the painters who had left their phone or wallet behind, they could have waited until 2 pm, since leaving something behind would have been their mistake… I didn't need to turn it into mistakes of my own, even though I meant well and was trying to think of others. I probably should have been more selfish… but doing so for the benefit of the webinar audience.

I'll keep reflecting… and hopefully improving.

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Check out my latest book, The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation:

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. KaiNexus CEO Greg Jacobson, MD pointed out that I could have put a sign on my office door that says “WEBINAR IN PROGRESS: Do Not Disturb.”

    Doing so would indeed follow our webinar prep checklist. I’ve never done that step because I’m alone at home during the day and I’m never doing this from a KaiNexus office.

    But, of course, that failed me when there was indeed somebody else in my home!


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