My biggest gaffe: internet power-up fails to load

Zeno MD Steve Earl's biggest nightmare became a virtual reality when the internet crashed just as he was launching the world's first online trade show...

Remember when any story to do with the internet was almost a shoe-in for media coverage? I do – and I recall one particular stunt. 

The idea was simple. A client providing techie gear that made the internet work faster (in the early days of broadband) wanted to showcase its wares. The aim was to show that with the internet, you didn’t need to travel to see something – it could come to you. So what better way to show that than take the one thing few people relish attending – a corporate trade show – and create a virtual one?

I was tasked with publicising the world’s first virtual trade show. The media were invited to a hotel in London from where they would be able to explore virtual stands, halls, presentations, visitors and avatar eye candy. Everything but the overpriced sarnies.

About 30 journalists, including several from national papers and a TV crew, showed up. We did the pre-checks and it all worked fine.

But with five minutes to go until the press conference, it all went spectacularly wrong. The internet connection failed. As did the back-up one. As did everything, due to a big network outage in the area.

We had succeeded only in showcasing the biggest flaw – if the internet is broken, the show won’t go on.

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