Saturday, February 03, 2007

My Worst Presentation Ever: Part 3 of 3- Time's Up

The painful recounting of my worst presentation concludes...
Read Part 1 here
Read part 2 here

I arrived back at Radio Disney, took a seat and waited for my meeting. I spent the time making some quick edits to the master copy of the presentation- trying to cut it down to fit into the shortened meeting, still tell the story and make sense, while also allowing time for open discussion.

The slightly cool air also helped me cool down a bit, though I didn’t have enough time to totally recover from my harrowing and highly heated morning.

A few minutes later the clock showed noon. Mrs. J arrived, with several shopping bags in hand (she apologized for moving and shortening the meeting, but she had to go to the doctors office, and then decided to get in some clothes shopping before leaving for vacation later in the day).

She escorted me to a meeting room, and told me she would be right back. As she headed out, she popped her head back in the room and mentioned off-handedly that we needed to wrap up by 12:30. Great. My 90 minute meeting, cut to an hour, was now cut again to 30 minutes. My head started throbbing.

The meeting room was a toasty 80 degrees. When Mrs. J returned to the meeting room with 10 other people in tow, the heat of the room and the stress caused by the meeting logistics spiraling out of control conspired to turn the reappearing sweat beads on my nose and forehead into Niagara Falls.

Over many years of meetings I had learned an important lesson. When making a presentation have materials for 50% more attendees than the number you have been informed will be in the meeting. 10 attendees? Bring 15 copies. 50? Bring 75.

What about one?

I now sat in front of 11 people with a grand total of 4 sets of materials. It was “sharing time” gone horribly wrong.

As I handed out the materials with one hand, wiping sweat with the other, my mind was racing trying to figure out how to edit the presentation on the fly to cover all the material in 10 minutes allowing at least 20 minutes to chat and try to close the deal. As I stumbled through the presentation, sounding like a blabbering idiot on speed, I got to the part where I played the music. With disc in hand I stood up and looked around the room.

Someone from the gallery said “We don’t have a sound-system in here. I’ll go get our portable player- it’ll just take a sec.” “No sound-system?” I blurted out with incredulity barely disguised.
A boom-box was hauled in, and the music sounded horrific on it. More sweat. Time was running out. More sweat. A very curious person kept asking goofy questions killing any remaining time. More sweat. 'Man, it must be 100 degrees in here' I thought. I kept hearing a distracting strange sound every couple of seconds. I realized it was sweat plopping loudly on my printed presentation. Lovely.

Times up. Mrs. J ended the meeting, thanked me for coming, and said we should follow-up on the phone when she got back from vacation in a few weeks. Goodbye.

I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you at this point that Mrs. J is a gracious and kind person. She always has been, and I was thankful for the chance I had at bat. The terrible morning and presentation was not her fault. I blew it. Me.

I picked up my stuff from the pool that had formed in front of me, thanked everyone lamely, and headed to the ground floor to have the receptionist call a cab- I had 2 hours before my departure time and figured I would make it with plenty of time to hang myself in the airport men’s room. I wondered if my iPod earphones cord would be strong enough.

As the elevator lowered me to my death, I realized I didn’t even remember what I had said during the last 30 minutes. It was a total blank. The worst presentation I had ever made.

The taxi company said they would be there in 10 minutes. 20 minutes later I had the receptionist call again. The cab company apologized and said they would be there in 10 minutes. Another 20 minutes passed and they called the receptionist asking for directions. They suggested I stand outside so the driver could spot me, and I could spot the cab.

After a burning hot 20 minutes standing in the sun, I noticed a taxi in the distance across the vast empty field I had walked through earlier, looping mindlessly around the parking lot. I began quickly walking through the lot towards the cab. The taxi looked to be giving up, and started to drive away. I broke into a run, braving deadly thorny shrubs, waving my free hand wildly. Finally I caught a break- the driver saw me in his rear view mirror as he was turning out onto the main road heading away from Radio Disney. He immediately pulled a U-turn to pick me up.

We sped to the airport, arriving 10 minutes before boarding. I got through security, ran to my gate, and collapsed in my seat looking and feeling like I had jumped into a swimming pool fully dressed.

I sat there on the flight home completely defeated and deflated. I drove home, and Michelle greeted me with a smile and excitedly asked me how the meeting went and if they liked the record. "No comment. I can't even talk about it until tomorrow. I need a glass of wine."

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Anonymous said...

Hi, Rich -- Wow. I knew it was going to be bad, but yeee-gods! It was so bad it sounded unreal, like something you'd see Chevy Chase (old school) or Adam Sandler (new school) go through on the big screen. The hanging-by-iPod...great line. Thanks for sharing the story.

Those last few lines about not wanting to talk about it? Need that wine? A woman would recount your story right away. In detail.

Men tell me, "Recounting is reliving. Why would I want to relive it?"

I like that you didn't blame anything on Mrs. J. It shows what kind of person you are - a responsible one!

Are you going to tell us what she thought of your presentation?

Anonymous said...

Interesting... But I gotta tell ya, Rich --your acceptance of responsibility aside -- no matter how "nice" you'd have us believe Ms.J is, her behavior was unconscious and inexcusible.
I'm sorry. You agree to get on a plane, fly to a scheduled meeting, only to have her breeze in to say what was left of it was cut in half because she had some shopping to do?! WOW. That's all I have to say.

Anonymous said...

Hmm. Karen brings up a great point. You may have had some serious mishaps but Mrs. J's cutting down your available time at the last minute wasn't that considerate. You didn't explicitly state it, but it sounds like she sprung a significant number of new attendees on you as well. In your situation I'd be hard-pressed not to throw at least some of the blame on Mrs. J.

DigitalRich said...

I think a little background is important to fill out the story. I left it out of the posts because I thought it was a distraction, but I will cover it here.

I pushed hard for the meeting day I got. Mrs. J's assistant mentioned that the day I wanted for the meeting was not a good day, and requested we push it out 3 weeks. I was insistent we have the meeting the week we did, and all that was available was a 60 minute slot that through begging and persuasion I was able to expand to 90 minutes with a warning that things would be very tight that day (though I didn't know Mrs. J was leaving on vacation). It was important to me to get the meeting right around the release date of the record.

She was sick, of that I am sure, and don't know if she actually went clothes shopping before or after her doctors appointment. I have no idea why she carried the shopping bags into her office from the car- that one still confuses me.

I did learn a few weeks after the meeting, when we connected upon her return, that she needed to be out of the office shortly after 12:30PM because her daughter was sick as well.

All in all, it was just a cataclysmic collision of unfortunate events- chief of them was me forgetting my cell phone in the car at the airport. From that, all evil flowed.

In the end, Radio Disney did not pick up the record, and decided against partnering with us in any way. Mostly because they try to steer clear of subjects or issues that are serious, scary or disconcerting. Disney is the "happiest place on earth" and they did not think being connected with our messages about child safety was very happy.

Sad tale. But every word of it true.


Anonymous said...

Those details definitely help to understand the situation better.

Yep, there are those days when it just doesn't pay to get up out of bed. :)

Sorry it didn't work out for you.