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I’m Sorry. What Was That?

July 29, 2020

At least that’s what I wanted to say. Instead I scrambled to try to remember what we had just been talking about. I was early in my career, working for WordPerfect Corporation. I was in a meeting that included Alan Ashton, the company president, and he had just asked me a question. Unfortunately, it was that opened ended type,

Rodney, what do you think?

Had he seen my attention lapsing? My management chain was in this meeting. We were designing an entirely new support offering. An offering that would allow us to go onsite with customers.

I had been the first WordPerfect employee to attempt this. It had been a bit of a clandestine operation done without the knowledge of the Executive Vice President. Later he found out and fortunately for me, was deemed less important to the company than the new support strategy. A strategy that I had pioneered. . .and the company president had just asked me about.

Meetings have changed a lot in the 30 odd years since I sat in that office in Orem, Utah. Tomorrow I have an important client meeting. I won’t have to worry if the VP might see my attention wandering. We will all be remotely connected. We’ll be dialed in remotely.

Modern meetings, remote meetings, are often filled with comments like, “I’m sorry, what was the question?” Or, “Sorry, I was looking at something else.”

I think in some ways, our remote meetings and the ability (the freedom? The temptation?) to multi-task has made us less attentive. Tomorrow’s meeting will probably not be like that. It’s a pretty high level meeting. And yet, each section will delivered by a different person. So, during the portions that aren’t mine, I might get distracted.

And we didn’t used to have PowerPoint. There’s much debate whether PowerPoint presentations have made us better or worse at meetings. Some have tied the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster to the use of PowerPoint in NASA meetings. We’ll use it tomorrow. And for most of our presentations.

For one thing it helps you to know what someone was asking you about when they say,

Rodney, what do you think?

A quick look at the slide deck and I’m back on track.

As it was, I don’t remember what I responded to Alan Ashton all those years ago. I know I didn’t say, “Can you repeat that?” But, my response was probably less insightful than it would have been if I’d had a PowerPoint presentation to look at.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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