First Grad School Presentation Fail

Last week I had my first big-girl graduate school presentation. If a picture can say a thousand words, this is how it went:

An interpretation of how my project went

Our task was to counsel Tim Cook moving forward as the CEO of Apple. Interestingly enough, our professor asked us this a week before Steve Job’s death.

My partner and I weren’t completely on the same page on a few things, but we compromised on both ends and came up with a presentation we could both stand behind.  She mostly did the business aspects of the project while I focused on media outreach.

I made what I thought was a great presentation via prezi, we were rehearsed, confident and prepared. At NYU, students and professors use a shared desktop instead of plugging in your personal laptop like at Seton Hall.

I pulled up the prezi site before class but didn’t run it through completely. Strike one. When it was our turn to present, the actual presentation didn’t work because the NYU computer didn’t have flash.

Seriously, who doesn’t have flash?

My SHU laptop and a helpful friend in class saved the day. I bravely, or maybe desperately, switched the overhead connection to my SHU laptop and the prezi worked.

A few slides in and we swung strike two. The business numbers my partner pulled up said that Apple “only” owned 28% of the global market. During our preparations I thought it was a lot, but at the risk of keeping our group together I didn’t question her further.

The professor however, questioned her much further. She went on for three minutes on how we were essentially dumb for not realizing that 28% is a lot of the global market. My partner may not have had her numbers clear, but as a partner I should have asked her to clarify more, but in a clear, non defensive way myself.

Strike three was my fault. My research showed that Steve Jobs was legendary in public relations, which in some senses he was. The professor stops the presentation and asks me in a sarcastic way, “You mean to tell me you think Steve Jobs was a friendly CEO?”

Everyone laughed. As soon as she said that I recalled a blog solely dedicated to Jobs’ jerk answers to consumers.  My heart sank. My research literally failed me.

I recovered by saying I admitted the mistake, and regardless our project wasn’t about Jobs, it was about Cook, and we wanted Cook to be friendly and accessible.

We finally finished the presentation. What should have been a clear 10 minute presentation turned into a 30 minute bashing. We then answered questions as best as we could, though I have to say most weren’t on topic.

We went back to our seats without so much as a pity clap. Not one.

I thought about brown-bagging it back on NJ Transit but realized I needed something stronger. I mentioned it in passing at the end of class to a friend, and he quickly rounds up a crew so that I don’t have to go alone. Awesome, I won’t just be whining to a bartender.

We went to the Southwest Porch across the street from school. We vented to each other about our professors, our classes, our projects and our commutes. But most importantly we learned from each other, we encouraged one another, and we helped each other sift through our problems.

And by the end of the night we all agreed that y’all is a very useful contraction and should be used more often.

This, I’ve learned, is how PR is. You put your heart into a campaign, you might mess up but you roll with it as graciously and as best as you can in the moment. You tell the truth, admit when you’re wrong and at the end of the day you move on with your new lessons with the help of your friends.

Is life the same? We had to sit there and question if this is the field we want to go in after a tough presentation like that. Deep down we all knew how our professor was treating us could be a foreshadowing of how most of the industry would treat us.

Were we ready for that? Were we ready to represent clients in situations like that?

I think that our support with each other that night showed us that we are. We all made at least three new friends that night, and not just because we were at some planned networking event.

And to me, that’s worth the $12 kiddie cup of bourbon and sweet tea.