As a favor to a client, I sat in on a meeting this week to do a little reconnaissance about a colleague conundrum she’s facing. My presence was undetected given it was a public gathering in a community center. Right up my alley.
When my client asked if I’d attend just to ‘soak up’ what she was feeling, I felt like a combo of super sleuths. You know, Sherlock Holmes or Nancy Drew. Maybe Sherlock Drew or Nancy Holmes? 😉 Intrigued by my client’s request I agreed and thought I’d likely learn a little in the process. A win for both of us.
Grabbing a seat in the back, I scooped up a copy of the PowerPoint notes and perused them while “the Speaker” set up his slide deck and others rolled in. I didn’t think I’d know anyone there and even if I did, it was plausible for me to attend given the social services topic and my profession. Even so, I was nervous.
For a few minutes I wondered if I was doing an astral projection thing – imparting my unsettledness onto the Speaker as I watched him struggle with his laptop, then the podium as he tried to share his slide deck ‘on the big screen’.
Still watching, I sauntered over to the refreshment table and grabbed a coffee and then retreated to my seat to unpack my laptop and settle in.
The Speaker continued to struggle, and I noticed no one came to his aid. He was a sweaty mess…and me being ME I couldn’t bear to watch him melt down. I debated my desire to help against my twin need for anonymity and decided I needed to sit tight.
Restless in my seat, I continued to observe. Another ten minutes passed, folks settled into their spots and all eyes were still on the Speaker as tech support from the venue finally popped in with what looked like a new cable and voila – slides appeared on screen.
The forty-something, disheveled-looking Speaker finally spoke, starting with a bizarre introduction that was more of a self-adoration rant followed by a literal point-by-point reading of his PowerPoint content. Mind. Numbing. But that wasn’t the intel my client was after. She already shared that the Speaker was a lousy speaker.
She gave me the backstory: The Speaker insisted on handling this gig on his own, despite the fact that it was her area of expertise. Without giving away too much, let me just say that his profound need to lead this workshop prompted him to engage in roller-derby like sabotage, shoving her to the sidelines. Eager for attention? Threatened by my client’s expertise? Perhaps.
Mindful of my body language and facial giveaways, even in a big room, I monitored my non-verbals as the Speaker proceeded, continuing to read from his projected PowerPoint deck while punctuating every bullet point with a tidbit about his accomplishments.
I felt my chin drop and my eyes narrow. That thing I do when I’m perplexed, bordering on agitated. Trying not to be obvious, I scanned the room, as best I could, to see if anyone else was vibing with me about the Speaker. It was hard to tell — not a single person had eyes on him. Everyone was looking down.
And still the Speaker continued, motoring through slides while inserting tidbits, subtext, and ad libs about his own accomplishments. Oddly, at times it seemed he was nearly mocking or heckling himself – in his own presentation. It was a wild ride.
Was it painful? Oh, my goodness, yes. But this man was on a mission. For reasons that are still unclear, the spotlight mattered to him but the quality, integrity, usefulness of the content? Not so much. It seemed the audience was irrelevant, even when attendees began to depart, a couple of folks at a time, soon after he began. What should’ve been a 90-minute workshop ended, mercifully, after 45 minutes of torture.
My client was anxious to hear my observations. As I sat in my car for a long while, my first thought was ‘what a waste of my time’. I was peeved. He was a jerk, jerk, jerk. Do I share that with my client to confirm what she already knew? No, no. She’s looking for more, Vicki. Self-talk city once again. Me in the car having one of my one-way chats.
But my processing head invariably leads me to opinions, appraisals, conclusions. Regarding the Speaker? This dear, bumbling human likely lost a year or two of his life as a result of pushing to present content that didn’t organically belong to him. In way over his head, he plowed forward, motivated by a wicked combo of insecurity with a side order of desperation.
When I called my client, I told her this:
***Despite her anger and misgivings about what happened, how he treated her, she should lift her chin up and remember she has assets he can only dream of
***She possesses two elemental qualities in my big book of terrific character traits: Competency and Authenticity
***No matter how many times the Speaker shoves someone aside to take the spotlight, being in the light doesn’t mean you shine
Just sayin’…so shine on, people.
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