I have done a lot of presentations over my life, most of them pitching to industrial companies to buy whatever control & instrument system was the flavor of the day. Over the many years of doing this I have received loads of complements on what a natural presenter I was; and I have received lots of complaints about what a shite presenter I was and how nervous I seemed. So I never really know how a presentation went, because some of the ones that I felt went really badly I was told afterwards they where great, and vice versa.
But in all the years of presenting, to pretty much every nationality, in far flung parts of the world there is only one presentation that really stands out in my memory. It was 94, maybe 95 and the construction industry in the middle east was booming. A booming construction industry means a booming cement production industry. I had just moved to Bahrain and we where trying to find a niche in the market to build a business out of this 50/50 JV we had. Now the obvious market was the hydrocarbon industry, and we got around to that, but we needed to generate revenue pretty fast to support the 100 staff that where in the JV. So we focused on cement plant automation.
As part of this process I found myself presenting to the Al Fujairah Cement Company, specifically to the managing director and his management team. Anyway, myself and a few of the boys have a demo system, but its me doing the presenting and in my mind I am powerpointing my way to a big order when I notice that the GM has fallen asleep. I kid you not, he is flat out asleep. Worse than that he is holding a cigarette that is burning a hole through his shirt.
Its a tough place to be, we needed this order, the guys management team sitting to his left and right seem pretty engaged in the presentation. They are ignoring the fact that their boss is asleep. And he is burning himself. I stall, I look at my lads, I look at his lads and decide, fuck it, I’ll plow on. It would after all seem rude to wake the man.
The presentation concluded, the usual round of Q&A’s, and a system demo. Through all of this the man is still soundly asleep. As the boys are packing up, I ask the plant manager for a chat, and we head off for coffee. Over coffee, he explains that this boss has some extreme from of narcolepsy, and that he falls asleep all the time, and no, really it was a great presentation. Now at this stage I had never heard of narcolepsy, and just assumed that the guy was being nice to me and trying to usher me out of his office so that he could get on with his job.
We won the contract, and from nothing we went on to become the dominant C&I supplier to the cement industry in the Gulf States. Sometimes things that on the face of it don’t seem to be going well, turn out with a big win in the end.