I love Paris, along with everyone else I know. So that probably includes you. Have you ever walked up the Champs Elysees with someone you love, and, in the distance ahead of you, a muted trumpeter is playing The Girl From Ipanema as the darkening summer night falls?
Well, it was less than lovely this time, on the fourth gig of my European Tour 2010.
The temperature was 34C degrees, which is 93.2F. In former centuries, our chaps in India would put on their solar topees to deal with the situation.
It was hot.
I had a class of 38 in a small room with rudimentary audio-visual facilities. Amandine Viguie from The EACA School, plus one of ISCOM‘s geeks, and several general maintenance men who were anxiously peering at the air conditioning units, were in attendance, too. All of us looked sweaty, ill-tempered and shagged out. And we were.
The students were great, and gamely went through the two pieces of syndicate work I gave them, but the desert temperature didn’t speed their thought processes. ISCOM’s engineers checked our air conditioning units, and declared them to be working fine, but added that the units were simply overwhelmed by the heat, which, as I write, is now here in London. My tomato plants are wilting.
When I got to ISCOM in the morning of 7 July, the usual dramas occurred. ISCOM’s system is Mac, not PC. My laptop is PC, not Mac. So, despite knowing what would happen, I plugged in my PC, and opened my ISCOM PPT. Immediately, all the internal links in the file were atomised. This meant that none of the videos associated with my slides were linked any more. However, practice sort of makes perfect, so I restored the links as the students filed in.
Now, I should expect this, really. It happened in Athens, and in Warsaw where my boss, Dominic Lyle, had to restore the links – “You!” he chuckled at me, “a digital consultant!?! Hah!!!” I don’t want to dwell on this painful memory – and it happened in Kiev, and, now, in Paris, too.
We can encourage millions of people to buy cars by digital marketing, but we can’t travel more than 70 miles before our PowerPoint presentations are about as much use as a ping-pong bat when facing Rafa Nadal.
Of course, no matter how clever we are, things will go wrong. My father, a test pilot in WW2, told me, “If things can go wrong, they will go wrong. The last thing I ever wanted to hear in an aircraft was a sudden twang.”
And that means we still have to anticipate a sudden twang in our presentations. Steve Henry experienced one, as well. I know his set went well, but he was also feeling the pain, having somehow twisted his leg in getting from the Gare du Nord to the hotel. Here’s a short excerpt from my diary:
“Steve starts looking weirdly at me when we can’t find the entrance to the Cite de Londres. ISCOM is located here. He’s a creative. I’m an old account man, so he rains a number of curses on me to get the situation fixed. I am carrying my bag, my laptop and Steve’s bag, too, on account of his bad knee and of me being an account man. Account men exist for creatives to curse. It is hot. I can feel sweat coursing down my back and into the gap between my buttocks. Splendid. My silk and linen trousers from Jaeger are having their first outing. It will probably be their last.”
I’m off next to Istanbul on the fifth leg of my European Tour, and will take 589 different backup solutions with me. We might need to hire a backup plane.
Finally, Amandine. Many thanks for your reassuring and cheerful support.
For me, it was then downhill. I got on the Eurostar, which was fine until we reached Ashford in Kent. At which point, 70 miles from my house, we were told to get off the train and find our own way home. There was a fire in the tunnel under the River Thames, and the train was going no further.
Yes. If something can go wrong, it will go wrong.