There is a scene in Ant Man where the titular hero is trying to break into Iron Man’s place and Falcon tries to stop him. They end up in a bit of a tussle but because Ant Man is so small, it effectively makes him an invisible enemy for Falcon to deal with. Falcon swings, he misses – and then he gets knocked over by a force coming at him from an unexpected direction. A similar kind of scene has been played out in loads of movies over time, and was exactly the situation I found myself in on Friday last week.
I had been asked to present to a group of people who had wanted to question the merits of some work that I am currently involved with. Although I have no issue explaining what we do, I sometimes have difficultly explaining it to people because it is a little complex and I get specifically uncomfortable when I am aware there are a number of agendas in the room which have nothing to do with what I do, and everything to do with the people sitting around the table. I do not know these people and I do not fully understand their agendas, but I do know they are keen to look good and this has the effect of making every word that comes out of my mouth a potential land mine that I can step on. I talk a lot.
I had written up a presentation with a number of options for someone significantly higher up the food chain with a lot more restraint than me to present, but they had insisted I accompany them to the meeting, something I tried on a number of occasions to get out of. I saw no merit in an angry gnome, sighing and then delivering machine-gun speed information which could derail the conversation, being there.
Nevertheless, I found myself trying to bite my tongue while a room full of people made pronouncements which were wrong, fully aware that to dive in and start arguing the toss was going to be no good because I had deliberately kept my figures at the office to prevent myself from getting too involved. I had a lot of data. In the week that I had looked at preparing the slides, I had argued and counter-argued in my head all possible scenarios, but effectively I had been preparing for a battle with an invisible enemy and that made me nervous. I try to avoid meetings where I am not in control of the room so for this one, I limited my participation to running the PowerPoint screen and talking to some images to provide some colour.
We walked out of the meeting a hour later and I felt dismayed. Dismayed that we had not succeeded in getting any kind of resolution, dismayed that I ended up, despite my best intentions, saying more than I had intended and had put my boss’s strategy at risk and also that nothing had really been achieved.
Other people, though had other ideas. My boss thought it had gone very well, and so did the other person from my organization. If that is the case then I am pleased, but also curious to see what a bad presentation goes like, because if that was good, there must had been some train wrecks previously. The weird thing is that people think I am crazily passionate about what I do – and I do see it as valuable, but it is not my favourite of the all projects that I have managed. I must kind of like it, though because I did that thing that everyone does after an argument where they replay the scene and think of brilliant retorts afterwards. The meeting was at 2pm on Friday, a hefty storm woke me up on Saturday at 5 am and I was still stomping around talking to myself and throwing punches into the air like Falcon at lunchtime. KAPOW.