October 5th 2017
Today I went to a technology conference in London with work. I got the train into London this morning. I was there early, at like, 8am. Everyone at the train station seemed to know each other. I sat on the bench at the platform and waited for the train and everyone was talking, people were saying ‘Good to see you again’. They were greeting each other like old friends. Maybe they do it every day — the long commute to London. To be fair, it only takes 75 minutes to get to Paddington, but then you’ve got to go to where you’ve got to go when you get there, you know?
Anyway, I sat down in the quiet carriage and tried to fit in with the rest of the commuters. Naturally, there was someone sat in my reserved seat but I didn’t ask him to move. I just took the seat in front of him. Because everyone seemed to know each other on the platform, I assumed they had some kind of pre-arranged seating plan on the trains as well so that they could all sit next to their friends like they’re Year 6 students or something.
The fact that I’d been too nervous about asking the person to move out of my seat kinda stuck in my head all day. That, and the fact that my boss said the other day that I’m too introverted to present at our company stand at this conference. I mean, she’s completely right, but it stuck with me.
So I did something completely uncharacteristic, and by my own personal standards a little bit mental. The first seminar I went to after lunch was a discussion panel on the Internet of Things (IoT) at the Keynote Stage.
I don’t know what came over me, but when the Chair of the Panel asked the audience if they had any questions, my little hand went up — like I was a Year 6 student or something.
I had a question. I’d written it down on my phone so that I could better formulate the wording and elocution of it when she handed me the microphone.
I took the microphone and was suddenly very aware of the fact that there were 500 people in the audience (there were probably only 150 people but this is my story, not yours).
First, I spoke too loud into the microphone and it did a screeching, reverberation kinda noise. Good start. The panel had asked that all questions started with a short introduction of ourselves, so I blundered through a “hi-i-am-james-i-am-in-marketing” and then asked my question. It went something like this:
“on.. data security of IoT and AI… is public perception a problem? Like, Tesla proved with stats that automatic– autonomous cars are safer per– have less accidents per road mile than normal driving — is public percep– how do we communicate… that IoT and AI is actually helping the people — with stats or?”
(please note, the content of the question is not particularly important, I’m just writing it out so you can imagine all of the stutters)
I think that was probably the most terrified I’ve ever been. As I started speaking all of the 700 heads in the room turned towards me and I could feel all 2000 eyes on me, and all 3500 ears were listening to me bumble through a question about Tesla.
To be fair, it must have been a reasonably intelligent question because between the three of them they gave a four minute answer but to be completely honest with you, I was too busy working on regulating my heart rate that I couldn’t concentrate on a word they were saying.
Luckily, I recorded the audio on my phone.
(If you’re interested, the short version of the answer they gave is “We just need to give it time”)
I know this sounds insignificant, but I was kind of proud of myself for asking the question in front of that many people. The idea had kind of been brewing in my head during the first part, and there was a question to which I wanted an answer, so I considered asking it, and then I asked it.
The buzz of that carried me all the way home to the Cotswolds.
Until tomorrow, well, that and the engine of the train.