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The blurry photo above was taken with my iPhone just a few minutes before the doors opened to my new Photoshop seminar. It shows the calm before the storm.

On Friday, in our nation’s capital, I met some of the most gracious, patient, and downright forgiving people on earth, because for two hours, at the kick-off of my “Photoshop Down & Dirty Tricks,” at the Washington Convention Center, I had absolutely the worst audio problems I’ve had in the 16 years I’ve been doing live Photoshop seminars.

I am not kidding.

Before the doors opened, we had tested, tweaked, and toned the center’s audio system (I took the photo above during the soundcheck. That’s Corey Barker walking through the ballroom as we were tweaking the audio. Luckily, we were in such a large ballroom that the in-house A/V company had an audio tech right here in the room with us). The sound check went fine, the doors opened, 700+ people poured into the ballroom, and after a few announcements, I was introduced to start the seminar.

I walked to the front of the stage, and said, “Well, good morning everyone,” and that’s when the problems started. During the next sentence, my mic cut out. Then back in. Then out. One of our staff rushed to the stage and quickly swapped out my headset mic’s batteries. It worked. For about a minute. Then it cut out again. And again.

We swapped out headsets. It worked for around two minutes. Then we tried a lav mic. It worked. For about a minute. I could go on and on, but what we wound up doing was moving my laptop over to the podium, rewiring everything, and I did the class standing up from the podium using the podium mic. This is just not how I wanted to start the first stop on my brand new tour. Arrrggghhh!

After the break, they had brought in four new speakers on tall stands; they ran new cables, and brought me yet another mic, and it worked. For about 4 minutes. At one point, the only way we could get the mic to work was to have Corey sit beside me on stage and hold the mic’s wireless receiver up over my head. If he moved, even an inch—it went out. This was the convention center’s in-house system, so it was totally out of our hands—all we could do was complain to the A/V techs troubleshooting the system (which we did. Vigorously!).

During lunch, the A/V company (who now had three techs frantically working on the problem), finally swapped out the mixing console, and it (a bad console) turned out to be the culprit. The audio was great the rest of the day, but let me tell you—that was the longest two-hours of my training career.

It’s not that amazing that we had such a catastrophic audio meltdown; stuff like that can and will happen, and always at the worst possible time. What is amazing is how gracious, patient, good-natured, and forgiving the audience was. They hung right in there with me the entire day—we laughed, we cried, we gritted our teeth the entire morning, but we made it through alive, and at the end of the day, somehow we brought that plane in for a smooth landing (although we did arrive at the gate about 25 minutes late).

Yesterday, I saw the first review of the seminar, from Karen Akerson of Svenska Studios (and yes, she did mention the audio), but you can read it here for yourself (here’s the link). There’s also a photo of me during the day, and I probably looked as blue as the tint she added.

Thanks to all my friends who came out (like Jeff Revell, who brought me a copy of his brand new book, “Canon 50D; From Snapshots to Great Shots!” which looks absolutely outstanding!) Also, right before my flight, I had been handed the first copy off the press of my new “Photoshop CS4 Down & Dirty Tricks” book, and I actually gave away that signed first copy as one of the giveaways at the end of the day. Hey, after the audio problems, I nearly gave my laptop away! And my plane ticket. And rental car, and…..

I do want to offer my humble thanks to everyone who endured those audio problems right along with me, and thanks for all your kind words of support during the day while audio grenades were going off all around me. Your attitude and the smiles on your faces out there kept me in the zone and focused on what we came to do—put the rest of the world on hold while we immersed ourselves in creativity and learning some really cool new Photoshop stuff. My hat’s off to you all.

NOTE: Photoshop genius guy Corey Barker (who helped me develop the tour, and helped immeasurably on Friday) is taking the tour to Richmond, Virginia on May 27th, and it is filling up fast. If you want to go—better snag your seat now (here’s the link). My bet is; the audio will be perfect! :)