Ake's Pains debuted in the University of Akron Buchtelite in September of 1977. The school's reputation as an institute of higher learning has still not recovered. Ake's Pains returns after a brief 32 year hiatus. It's back, baby!

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

When PowerPoints Lose Their Power

My company hosts a large conference every year where industry people come from far and wide to hear many expert speakers pontificate on relevant topics. I am one of these pontificators, and I am entrusted with presenting our 5-year forecast, the most vital information of the entire conference for many of the attendees.

This is so important that I work for weeks with our team to develop this forecast. Then I spend hours putting together a stellar PowerPoint file featuring the most dynamic charts and graphs found anywhere in corporate America. It is my most critical job responsibility of the entire year. This presentation is so impactful that it takes two people to successfully deliver it. My boss does first part, expertly presenting the underlying assumptions and data that support the forecast. And then I take over to reveal those important numbers that everyone is on the edge of their seats anticipating. So my boss is the ace starting pitcher and I am like the lights-out closer, the Mariano Rivera if you will, who comes in and finishes the game with a bang.

I feel that adrenaline rush the morning of this presentation, as I prepare myself mentally and physically for the task that afternoon. I am ready, and I am confident when the big moment arrives. And the presentation starts wonderfully. My boss is artfully going through those masterfully-crafted slides (did I mention I created those?) and mesmerizing the audience. He finishes his portion flawlessly and then hands the clicker off to me. I now know how Rivera felt when he held the baseball in the ninth inning. This game is all mine!

I begin my part of the presentation displaying a brilliance and clarity seldom seen in all the business world. Each slide, every chart is explained in a dynamic, eye-opening manner.

I am the Prince of the PowerPoint. I am the Commander of the Clicker. This boy is on fire -- or more like on fi-yaaaa! I feel like the mafioso of this meeting because I am killing it like a mafia don. I am a Don, literally the Don. I am Don Corleone, no Don Akelone, making them an argument they can’t refuse.

And I am looking so good doing it. For this one, I brought out the pins! I’m
sporting the pins, delivering this critical information in my best pinstripe suit. My freshly-shaved head shines brightly, leaving the audience to wonder if this is due to the lighting or the brilliant insights emanating from my dome. The men in the audience wished they looked this good, and the women … well, uh…ah… well… you know.

I hoped my boss noticed how great this presentation is. Thinking to himself how fortunate he is to have me as an employee and how enormous my next raise is going to be.   

This was the best presentation of my entire career. The room was spiked with anticipation as I neared the revelation of the forecast, the moment everyone was waiting for. I wanted to finish strong, like LeBron James coming in for a two-hand, 360-degree, reverse-tomahawk dunk.

I announce it is time to unveil the forecast and turn confidently towards the screen and hit the clicker and, and, and ….. the forecast slide isn’t there. It is missing. Click back, click forward, repeat, … no, no, no forecast slide. No forecast slide anywhere. Gonzo.

Now a more polished presenter would have chuckled, said something witty, and improvised. However, that’s not what I did.  I had a meltdown on stage, in front of everyone. I look for help from my boss, but he wasn’t pleased at the moment, and it was obvious I was going to have to handle this disaster on my own.

The audience, many of whom know me personally, was highly amused by this blunder. They laughed at the missing slide; then they laughed even more at my discombobulation. This situation was out of control, and order needed be quickly restored. Fortunately, my colleague Andy was managing this part of the schedule and handled the situation skillfully, although it was similar as if he was curator at the zoo: 

“Look, children! The monkey is angry! Let’s all laugh at the monkey! Funny, funny, monkey!”

“Don’t be afraid, children. The monkey will calm down soon (with this I got a look that said: Ake, get yourself together, now!), and we can soon resume the show!”

I regain my composure and realize I would now have to present the forecast by memory. Twenty years ago, I would have been able to zing off those five numbers instantly. Now, with my diminishing memory, I am able to put forth three numbers, and one of them is even correct! (The other two are very close). And with this, the presentation mercifully comes to a close.

The missing slide was not my fault. It was accidentally deleted by someone during the formatting process. Strangely enough, the presentation contained 62 slides, and this, the most important, was the only one missing. And of the approximately 2,500 slides presented at the entire conference, my slide, my dear, most critical slide, was the only one that vanished. If you wonder how this could happen to me, then you haven’t been reading this blog for very long.

This was the second-most embarrassing incident in my entire business career, not counting those involving me carrying my personal effects in a box to my car. The most embarrassing time was many years ago when I enthusiastically introduced a great new product to the market that my company had no way of producing.  That shrewd maneuver shortly preceded me carrying my personal effects in a box to my car.

But this time I didn’t have to carry my personal effects in a box to my car. Because, of course, I work from home. But my boss realizes that mistakes happen, so we could all laugh about it later. Okay, there was no laughing, none. But mistakes do happen; I just wish they didn’t happen so much to me.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, no! Sorry that happened to you! But at least you were able to recover, and look!--you even got a great blogpost out of it. :)