I’m a very organised person. My Mum is a big believer in being 3 hours too early rather than a minute late so I’ve grown up being very conscious of time. This has led to me having multiple calendars that are regularly checked throughout the day to make sure I’m doing what I should be doing. This also means that I’m always the first at the party, know when the kids have their swimming days and think ‘fashionably late’ is an oxymoron. 

The dark side of this level of organisation is that making people wait is the worst thing I can do. If I say I’m going to meet you at 10 and I arrive at 10.15, I’ve severely weakened my character. The reverse is also true. If someone keeps me waiting without a reasonable excuse then they’re off the christmas card list. Being on time show’s the other person or people that you appreciate them and value their time.

With this position in mind I’d like to take you back to Wednesday this week when I was asked to be a guest speaker at Queensland Tafe’s ‘Design Salad’ - Summit about Life and Design. This is the first time I’ve been asked to be part of something like this and I was very excited to share my story with the 70 odd students who were graduating this year. 

I’d decided to take a slightly different approach to creating my 25 minute presentation in that I didn't make one. I know this sounds counterintuitive but when I really thought about what advice I wish I’d got when I first left university, it would have been that you have to be comfortable talking about yourself in front of people you don’t know. I wanted to emphasise the importance of networking.

I was nervous about my approach knowing that most of the other speakers would have beautiful slide decks but I also wanted to prove that talking to the students in person was more important than having a flashy portfolio. 

I also don’t have a flashy portfolio. Straight out of the gates I admitted that I wasn’t an award winning designer and that most of my work is transactional typesetting that isn’t glamorous at all but pays the bills. 

One thing that the design industry does well is intimidates young (and even old) designers. This happens because most of the design that is showcased is award winning -  and for good reason. Good design should be celebrated, but while we only see the very select few at the top, we miss the majority of design work that is very basic, run of the mill and non-award winning design. I wanted to show that not being an award winning designer is a completely legitimate career and a fulfilling one at that. 

In preparing for my talk I had collected a few old projects to talk about. I dug out my portfolio that I brought with me when I moved from New Zealand nearly 20 years ago which is way worse than I remembered. I jotted down a few dates that would help with the storytelling but other than that I really didn’t need anything else. Authenticity was key so the less practice I got, the better…

My time slot was 1.30pm so I made sure I distracted myself with work right up until kick off because as soon as I started to think about it, I started to panic… Fuck, I haven’t done a presentation! I’m talking to a room of designers… Of course they want a bloody presentation! 

At 1.30pm it was ‘now or never’. I jumped online with my guts twisting with nerves until I realised one of the other speakers had just started to present… Shit. It was 1.30pm in Queensland, not Melbourne!!!! I was an hour early! Far out, talk about taking the wind out of my sails! I didn’t need to be there yet. This was both good and bad news. Good, I didn't have to present yet. Bad, I still had to present. 

The rookie move of not getting my interstate times right would have a flow on effect with a meeting at the city council I’d arranged for 3pm. I was gutted because I didn’t want to mess the council person around so I arranged for Matt to go instead. It wasn’t ideal but it would work. 

After I busied myself for another hour I jumped online and just went for it. I shed the bulk of the nervousness at the false start so I felt like I had nothing to lose. I also imagined I was talking to my sister which just makes everything flow so easily. I was a good 20 minutes in when a car pulled into the HUCX car park behind me.

Strange, I thought. Matt was at the council meeting and we weren’t expecting anybody. I continued my animated talk which I was really getting into and then another car pulled into the car park. Then another. Hmmm. This is very strange indeed. After a while all 6 people came to the door, where I had to excuse myself, mid-rant to 70 people, and see what was going on. 

They were all from the Ballarat Tech School and had come for the tour that Matt had arranged - but obviously NOT put into the calendar. I was in a flap and basically sent them outside again for 5 minutes (it was raining, sorry guys) while I quickly finished off the talk. There was meant to be a Q and A session which I disappointingly had to miss as I was frantically texting Matt to say - get the hell back here! 

Of course everyone online had watched this whole saga unfold live so they were all very forgiving when I had to cut it short. The host messaged later on saying that it was a great example of what running a business is really like! I appreciated her positive spin because I really felt bad about it.

The benefit of going from a design presentation to 70 people straight into a factory tour is that my energy levels were high. Man, I was on fire, hands down the best tour I’d ever given! Once I’d apologise for sending them outside in the rain. We had a great session. Matt ran in half way through and pretty much let me finish off my show before answering the more technical questions  - they were from the tech school after all. 

Despite the disorganisation on mine and Matt’s behalf I believe that all parties were pleased with the afternoon. While I would NEVER double book anything deliberately it's good to know that I’m capable of pulling it together in the moment. This new approach of leaning into what I already know and not stressing about being right, or good or flashy means that I’m far more agile and confident. I think if I had a slide deck for the presentation it would've been far more stressful having to rush through a measured story. No slide deck meant I could change track quickly. Ironically I ended the presentation with the phrase “sexy indifference” which kind of sums up the whole experience nicely.

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