As regular readers of this blog may know, I'm often asked to present at a variety of conferences and it's something that on the whole I enjoy. This time last week I was preparing for a rather different speaking engagement that Graham and Carole had decided to delegate to me.
It sounded like a good opportunity. A first class ticket via Eurostar to DisneyLand Paris, followed by an overnight stay and a complimentary ticket to the park before presenting for 45 minutes and a journey home. Easy!
Then came the problem, the topic was fairly generic, ICT serving organisations. The audience, 600 teenagers aged 16 to 18!
Having children of my own, most of whom are teenagers and despite my best efforts are not interested in the slightest about the work that I do, I knew this was going to be hard. At that age politely listening to a less than riveting presentation without complaint does not come naturally.
The venue didn't make it any easier either. The iMax cinema, with its steeply banked seats, and lighting that meant you can't see the audience makes it quite an intimidating situation. Add to that, the fact that I was scheduled to be last to present and therefore the only thing stopping the audience from the thrill of Space Mountain.
I decided I needed expert advice.
I asked my son and stepson (both of whom are 16) what I should talk about, and went through the presentation with them beforehand. They suggested I give a summary of how I got into software development and my career (as it wasn't the usual route). I included embarrassing illustrations of seventies fashion to keep the audience amused and then went into a broader description of what we do at Sophos and SophosLabs. Even using a clip from Futurama to illustrate my point.
On the whole I was very pleased with the result. Especially after I had bribed the jokers taunting me with laser pens with free "˜giveaways'. Or at least that's what I thought. At the end of presentation, I had a number of people approach me (mainly for more free gifts) but one young man came up, explained that he was very interested in computers and asked "How did I get into it?" I resisted the temptation to ask if he had missed my presentation!
Oh, well. Like many of report cards from my school days, "Tries hard but could do better!"