All the world’s a stage

Since my last blogpost, in true IMD fashion, so much has happened.We are now officially done with the second term exams. IMD tends to front load content so we are better prepared for interviews and consulting projects. So more or less, our core classes are over. All of us went to Morzine in France for a day to unwind and relax. I enjoyed the trip and the hiking very much. (Priyanka talked about the fun experience in one of her earlier blogposts)

Soon after that, we started prep work for “Navigating the future” conference. This is the 4th year of the conference and we were determined to keep up the quality of presentations as in the past years. Over the last month or so, we had emails going back and forth on the different topics and the content for the speech etc and we worked on the write-up and slides after the class Italy trip. I was amazed by the quality of our presentations as a class and the prep work that happened in the background just before it. I wanted to share some of the behind-the-scenes work that made this possible

Editorial teams:

Some of my classmates volunteered to be the editors. We had a report editorial team and a Powerpoint editorial team. The groups were given a format and theme to follow throughout the writeup and the presentations. Some of my classmates spent so many extra hours being in the editorial team trying to bring the IMD quality to every presentation and the write-up. There were so many rounds of iterative slide decks and reports that went back and forth between editorial team and the project teams. I find myself to be very privileged to have witnessed the intense work and the shaping of the final product.

Our topic: 

We had 15 topics and I had chosen the negative side effect of automation. I was one of two speakers on this topic. We had another group presenting the optimistic view of automation. In addition to the normal challenges of this type of presentation, both our groups had to maintain a tight co-ordination between the content. To make it more lively, we decided to make it more of a debate/discussion and decided to refute each others points directly. At IMD, we believe in real world examples. When the optimists proposed government as a solution, we did some research and found some proof for why the government alone cannot be the solution. When they argued companies are the solution, we did some research and found some interesting flip slides for that argument as well. It was such a fun exercise to iteratively perfect the presentation.

Speech:

In addition to working on slide decks and reports, the other very important aspect of this conference was the prep work for the speech itself. Though I personally am passionate about this topic, the thought of speaking in front of 250 executives scared me a little to be honest. This reminds me of a classic Seinfeld joke

“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

I think I wasn’t alone. So how did we overcome this? There is an interesting behind-the-scenes story I can share at this point.

“And all the men and women merely players”:

Richard Hahlo is a professional theater actor and speech consultant. He spoke to us earlier in the year about presentations and public speaking. We even talked about that interesting exercise in our blog. As it turns out, Richard made an appearance again. Over the course of two days, he prepared us for the presentation. All of us got individual coaching.

For example, I had no idea that I tend to move a lot during presentations. They recorded my speech and we analysed it together and It showed me things I would never have had an opportunity to learn in corporate world.

Richard and my classmates helped me out with some of my pitfalls. Myself and all my classmates were given an opportunity to improve our delivery. We were taught to see from the perspective of the audience and we were told how to retain their attention. We were taught tips and tricks. We learnt what makes a good public speech and what the audience take away from it. If you think it is impossible to learn these things in two days, I recommend you watch all our speeches this year at the NTF conference (the YouTube links will be out soon) All my classmates made mind-blowing leaps in a matter of few days. We also did many rounds of class feedback sessions for all the speakers and we continuously improved up until the day before the presentation. So I can confidently say, all my classmates did a tremendous job on stage (I admit I may be biased..we are waiting for the opinion of the readers of the blog!)

Networking events:

We had networking sessions right after the speeches and there were some lively debates about the topics that were just presented. Mr.Ian Charles Stewart is a co-founder of Wired magazine. He was in the audience during NTF. Ian, being an innate optimist believes automation is a force for good. As you would expect, he had some tough questions for my team after we presented the pessimistic view. I reached out to him during the networking session and continued the Q&A. He agreed that the current change in automation is exponential, but he convinced me that the human potential to overcome these challenges is also exponential. How cool is debating with Wired magazine co-founder about automation and technology!

These are the important value adds in the IMD MBA program that is so unique to us. How often do you get to experience something like this? As general managers, we may have to do as much public speaking in the future as financial modeling (hopefully). I can speak for all my classmates here – the behind-the-scene experience of NTF conference is something all of us will cherish for years to come.

OWP:

Of course we didn’t stop there. As you may have read in previous blogposts, we also presented our view points in the annual OWP program in IMD. For the uninitiated, OWP is one of the biggest executive training programs offered at IMD. We had 450 senior executives from all over the world come to Lausanne for OWP and we got an opportunity to present in front of them and tackle their difficult questions.

Company Engagement projects:

After a raucous month of June – starting with exams, Morzine class trip, Italy class trip, then NTF, OWP – we are all off to our summer internships during July/August. I am excited about my project with Amazon, starting this Monday. 89 others from my class are traveling to all corners of the world for their internships.

For the month of July, we have a fantastic line up of blog posts. My classmates are going to write about their internship experience from all over the world. Stay tuned!

Adios,

Sathappan

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