Did you ever have one of those teachers who gave rather vague instructions for an assignment, explaining he wanted to “see what you could do”. And then as the deadline approached to turn in the project – when you were almost finished – that same professor would say he’d decided to give “more direction” which pretty much meant you had to scrap your project and start from scratch with only a few days to go?
You probably thought he was a total idiot at the time, that the switch in plans was completely unfair, and that if your grade suffered it wasn’t your fault. But in reality, he was preparing you for real life. Believe me, I know that better than anyone after yesterday.
The deadline for the MobileBeat 2010 finalists to upload a rough draft of their conference presentations was yesterday, so after hours of revising and polishing, I submitted the APPCityLife presentation. With a time limit of four minutes for each presentation, I knew the slides had to carry a lot of content without looking like a kitchen junk drawer crammed full of everything. And while yesterday’s submission could still be a rough draft, I wanted that particular task to be completely off my checklist.
Perfecting the slides was only half of my challenge. The other was to make sure my speech not only matched the slides but covered all the bases within the time allotted. I practiced anywhere and everywhere I could – outside pulling weeds, in front of my long-suffering family, and even alone in my car. I’m sure I was the momentary entertainment for more than one commuter at stoplights around town, but it was worth it. I felt pretty good about the final product when I uploaded it yesterday.
Only minutes after hitting the submit button, I received an email … with the detailed criteria the judges would be using to rank our presentations. Did it include this specific piece of information? Did it mention this particular factor? Did the presentation list competing products? Seriously? A four-minute presentation, and they wanted me to spend even fifteen seconds of that precious time making mention of other companies?
At first I was upset with myself. How had I missed this information? I shot an email back to the organizer asking where the information had been listed, kicking myself for my lack of attention to details. Then the reply came: it had just been decided upon, and they thought we should have prior notice. And so I did the only thing I could do. I took a deep breath and started over.
You know – in some ways, this last minute change in plans was in many ways the best litmus test of all. Could I reverse directions on the fly to create a flawless knock-their-socks-off presentation without losing polish or poise? If I’ve learned anything in the past few months of running a startup, it is that this is what is expected of me every single day. Just when I think I’ve mapped out the perfect strategy to move the company forward, some new obstacle presents itself, forcing me back to the drawing board to find a way to accommodate this change in strategy without losing ground.
And so I’m back at the drawing board this morning, cup of coffee in hand. The weeds will wait (in fact, they’ll thrive without me), and supper can come out of a box tonight. I’ve been handed the opportunity to prove how I perform under pressure, and I want to knock this one out of the park.