Random thoughts from an unusual company

There’s A Tornado In That Teacup Or How To Become An Inadvertent Activist

Gabriella Davis  16 January 2012 09:55:48
This isn't a blog post I planned to write. Or intended to write.  However I know how much this community likes a good story and I seem to have inadvertently become one so before this story becomes, for whatever reason, a fable here's what happened.  For those of you not at LS or the majority of you not at or interested in Andrew's and my session on security, or having any idea what on earth I'm talking about here - I advise you to save yourself the 2 mins and just stop reading now.  

I love presenting.  This is a sad but true fact, only eclipsed by this other fact.  I love writing presentations.  I had no issue with the short timelines to get our LS presentations in for precisely those reasons.  I even spent the time since the holidays and right up until last Friday reviewing and working with other presenters in the Show and Tell track along with Paul Mooney and Christian Holsing to help get their presentations ready for LS.  In the past 2 weeks I've personally read and reviewed over 1500 pages of presentation content.  As far as someone outside the IBM content team can be, I am extremely aware of the pressure the entire team have been under this year. So having got that disclaimer out of the way, here's what happened yesterday......

Walking across from the Dolphin to the Swan about 2 hrs before my security presentation with Andrew we both got an email from the Jumpstart track manager asking us to come early to our presentation set up because the legal team were just now reviewing our presentation and may have changes.  My plan for those 2 hrs was to rehearse the presentation for the umpteenth time and close a couple of customer support calls.  Andrew saw the email before me and said, quite rightly, "nope we're not doing it.. i'm going back".  He was right. The idea of changing the presentation on the fly had already sent me into a panic.  Andrew replied.  Then he went to his room.  As soon as he'd gone the panic set in again and I replied asking what changes there were - I mean how bad could it be, we presented the same session last year with the same theme and images - what we'd done this year is update the content and add a couple more characters / images.  I got a reply back saying the objection was to the cartoons.  This was a problem.  The cartoons were on about 120 of the 127 pages of our presentation.  They were the theme of the presentation.  Given time we could have redone the whole thing to another theme, but we didn't have time.  Asking people to sit through 2 hrs on security on a sunny Sunday afternoon is a big ask, the cartoons and the theme were to inject humour into things.

With 30 mins to go we were told in an email directly from the lawyer who I had yet to hear from directly that we either removed all the cartoons or he would cancel it.  In fact the email basically said "cancel it".  At this point Andrew was fully supporting whatever decision I wanted to make.  Sadly for everyone involved my panic had reached such a state that making a decision was beyond me.  My brain had focussed on a single point of wondering whether it would be worse to give a bad presentation or no presentation at all.  The idea of covering all the images in black boxes rather than deleting them was an act of hopefulness (maybe the lawyer would realise that he made a mistake and we presented the same thing last year).  I showed the black boxes to other people saying "will this work" and they went "Genius!" - so apparently I need to be in a blind panic over things I don't understand to channel my inner Stephen Hawking.

The worse thing I did.  I tweeted. I tweeted that I was panicking because our presentation was being cancelled.  I  tagged that tweet LS12.  Why? Because at that point I had an email from the laywer saying "cancel it" and because I have spent a lot of years and hard work building a reputation for professionalism (at least I hope so) and just not turning up for a presentation with no explanation or worse, having a rumour go around that we didn't do a good enough one to get on stage, was unthinkable to me.  I didn't see the responses to my tweet until after the presentation.  It was a tweet and run and I'm sorry for that.

At the end of the day this was about stupid cartoon images on a presentation.  It shouldn't have panicked me.  It shouldn't have mattered.  I'm sorry that it did.  I'm sorry that Andrew and other friends and the content team were drawn into the mess that was generated.   In the great scheme or things, or even in the smaller Lotusphere scheme of things, what happened is unimportant to the point of ridiculousness.  I don't remember the presentation.  I remember my friends  in the front row.  I remember breaking out in a cold sweat at several points and forgetting what I was talking about or what my point was.  Right now I am thinking about the other 3 presentations this week and the fact that my Traveler Show and Tell with Paul later today (all 200 pages of it) is still "with IBM legal being reviewed".  


1Julian Woodward  16/01/2012 18:14:20  There’s A Tornado In That Teacup Or How To Become An Inadvertent Activist

"unimportant to the point of ridiculousness"

Sounds like a fair description of Thomas Hagen. Jeez.

2Chris Blatnick   16/01/2012 18:48:10  There’s A Tornado In That Teacup Or How To Become An Inadvertent Activist

Nothing to worry about or apologize for. You were both prepared, professional and did a fantastic job. Your presentation totally worked and the content was great. Thanks for pushing forward and doing the right thing!

3Andrew Pollack  16/01/2012 23:16:19  There’s A Tornado In That Teacup Or How To Become An Inadvertent Activist

Let me be clear here: I was not "drawn in" by your reaction -- I was right there with you as the other presenter and was also stressed. It doesn't show as much with me because that's not who I am. My reaction is naturally a great deal more of the forward aggressive type than yours -- but that's true of me for most people.

I did not know how we were going to be able to make it work until I came down and saw how you'd redacted the data. Once I saw that, I had a plan but I didn't de-stress much until I saw duff's tweet about #occupyPelican and realized how much support we were about to benefit from. I thought you'd seen that as well I found out later that you hadn't. Once I knew we had that kind of support, I knew we'd be fine if we just did what we did.

4Jen  20/01/2012 15:58:48  There’s A Tornado In That Teacup Or How To Become An Inadvertent Activist

Gab, Im a loyal follower of your greatness. I sat through this presentation as I did last year and you were both fantastic as always. I think you would have done great even if they made you cover up the entire presentation and we just listened to you. I didnt even see you sweat. Thanks for all that you do.