In my recent post about speaking at the Canadian ISP Summit, I mentioned having “an extremely busy schedule”; well, a few days after the conference I was on-board an A380 en route to Dubai. While there, I summarized my notes from a recent Communitech event.
However, it may surprise you to learn that I did not fly 14ish hours (with several-ish additional hours of tarmac-sitting delay, and during all of which I was completely aware of my extremely awake and alert consciousness) simply to write a blog post from a swanky location. In fact, I was in the land of outlandish civil engineering as a home base for some meetings in the region. After a few days in and around Dubai, I hopped on a flight to Istanbul for the Zain Technology Conference. This post talks about the trip so far, on day eight of 10.
Dubai is somewhat surreal: it’s ultra-modern, super-sized, technologically amazing, and shiny and new, but beneath all that patina lies a somewhat darker side. Sort’ve like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with the Oompa Loompas and weirdness and general unease.¹ This was my second trip there, having first gone for a week about six years ago for a tradeshow. As Waterloo dropped below freezing, I looked at the Dubai forecast: >30 and sunny, every day.
I left Toronto on Monday night, to arrive in Dubai on Tuesday night; this would give me time to prepare with our local staff for an executive-level meeting on Thursday. Upon landing after 20 hours of travel, I was greeted with a text message from a colleague that read: Did you hear the news :)…? Presentation is in 19 hours!!! 😀
Upon landing after 20 hours of travel, I was greeted with a text message from a colleague that read: Did you hear the news :)…? Presentation is in 19 hours!!! 😀
Well, that’s life. I was feeling somewhat unprepared already, but I enjoy a challenge, and I have a pretty solid track record of pulling through, so I was confident. Or just really tired? I’m not sure.
On the taxi ride to my hotel I looked out at the sights whizzing by along Sheikh Zayed Road (which, let’s be honest, is a highway), and saw a Tim Hortons! That made my trip, right there, no matter how the meeting went. I subsequently discovered that there are more.
After settling in, sleeping, and eating breakfast, we were down to about seven hours. My hotel was close to our Dubai office, so I walked over and met up with our local team to get prepped. During this prep, I found out that the meeting location had moved, so we also had to account for two additional hours of travel. And the audience had expanded…it was now going to be a large team of executives. No pressure!
Well, that’s also life.
Anyway, long story short, we prepped sufficiently (my thanks to Alex!) and everything went spectacularly well. In fact, my one hour meeting stretched to two hours, with an audience from which you’d feel lucky to get 15 minutes. I also got to see some cool buildings that I’d wanted to see since watching documentaries on their construction. Huzzah! (Nerd!) The next day I worked from the local office and then on Friday I flew on to Istanbul (not Constantinople). I watched The Heat on the way – Melissa McCarthy is funny.
My one hour stretched to two hours, with an audience from which you’d feel lucky to get 15 minutes.
I’ve never been to Istanbul, and let me just say that this is a craaazy place. The craziest traffic I’ve ever experienced, with apparently all 14 million of the sprawling city’s inhabitants seemingly vying for precious asphalt right outside my hotel. It also has some cool sites (see below), and on Saturday I walked around and saw a few of them until the general scamminess of the tourist areas became exhausting². I took the metro back to the hotel, since I’m pretty sure I got ripped off on my cab ride, so I guess that’s a metro network to add to the list.
On Sunday, I slept. Like, solidly. This was good, because I really hadn’t slept more than a couple of hours since Tuesday night.
On Monday, the conference started. The Zain Technology Conference (ZTC) is by the Zain Group, for the Zain Group, “…to spur discussions between telecom professionals about technical roadmaps, new technologies, challenges, trials, success stories, etc.” We were honoured to attend, and I’d have the additional honour/responsibility of speaking at the event. Zain has operations in eight countries, and representatives from each of those countries’ fixed and mobile access networks were there.
My one-hour speaking spot³ was at 9am on Tuesday, which meant that I had Monday to learn the themes of the event and the crowd’s interests, so that I could relate to them during my session. I’d already submitted my slides, but I was hoping to get the chance to go off an updated deck (and I was able to, so yay), so on Monday night I added some new content, cleaned up some other, and added explicit references to the topics that had been major talking points of the conference so far. My original deck would’ve been fine, but I generally don’t settle for less than the best that I can do. I also took the opportunity to make major changes to the rotating deck that we were showing at our modest booth, similarly, to better relate to the emerging themes.
Knowing so little about the audience, I went with the *SPLAT!* approach.
It’s worth pointing out that I knew little about the audience, other than they were folks who were interested in Next Generation Networks (NGN – that was my parallel track stream), and they came from fixed and mobile networks in countries throughout the Middle East and Africa (MEA).
Knowing so little about the audience, I went with the *SPLAT!* approach, in which my plan was to shallowly (as opposed to deeply) go through a wide range of use cases, in the hopes that each attendee would see something that was worth a conversation with us. I actually began my presentation by saying “If I do my job right today, then I will give each of you a reason to come and have a follow-up conversation.” – that was the only ‘conversion’ for which I was looking.
I actually began my presentation by saying “If I do my job right today, then I will give each of you a reason to come and have a follow-up conversation.”
Luckily for me, I had a great audience – they were interactive, attentive, knowledgeable, friendly – and the session was over all too soon. Later, a colleague pointed me to this tweet:
My session led to some follow-up traffic to our booth already, and I’m hopeful that we’ll get even more tomorrow, on the final day of the conference.
With the talk over, and Tuesday wrapping up, I’m hopeful that tonight I can sleep again (having not slept more than five hours total since Sunday). With me, either I adjust immediately to a new timezone, or not at all…I don’t play that gradual game. Now I’m at the point where I don’t want to adjust, because pretty soon I’m coming home (tell tha world)!
¹I have never seen any of the movie adaptations, or read the book…is this an accurate analogy?
²Even worse than Rome. Yes, even.
³Preeeeettttty sure I was told it would be 20 minutes, but as a colleague said only slightly tongue-in-cheek “Good thing you have 698 slides”. I actually had 54 (I move quickly, and go light on content-per-slide).