I don't fear spiders, I don't fear snakes but...


In case you missed it - there was an epic fail last week when Microsoft unveiled their new tablet.

When the poor (or actually very rich) Microsoft chief executive Steve Sinofsky went to demo the new tablet - it promptly failed as he tried to demonstrate it's rich media abilities. Watching Steve continue to deliver his carefully scripted and professionally coached patter while desperately trying to restart the now bricked tablet was hysterical...until I started remembering all the times it has happened to me.

My first epic fail happened years ago while hosting a sales event at the Ritz Carlton in Cancun.

I don't really expect much sympathy from my readers - because I was after all staying at the Ritz on a company dime... but there are probably few harder places in the wold to run a business meeting from. I had spent months putting together the event - attracting buyers from Staples, CompUSA (remember them?), Costco and others. Fresh out of grad school and in front of not only these hard boiled buyers but also senior management from the parent company I was anxious and eager to put in a great show. Two slides in and the bulb blew on the projector. Luckily for me - the projector had a spare bulb stored within the case. Sweat was already starting to trickle down my nice Armani suit as I struggled to replace the bulb. One slide past and the spare bulb blew. It didn't take long for the buyers to smell blood in the water and suddenly I was being heckled (loudly) by the buyers - who now viewed me as the speed bump on their way to the beach and cold beer. Trying to do a song and dance (mime skills) just made things go bad to worse and the last thing I remember is seeing a mass exodus as the buyers vanished en mass.

It was for the same company a few month later that things went from bad to worse. We were attending CES (http://www.cesweb.org/) to introduce a new product - this time a cord management system.

The holy grail for any manufacturer is the Walmart buyer. With the power of gods, these buyers can literally make or break a company or product line. Buyers in these positions typically turn their badges around so that you can't read their name, position or company and try to remain below the radar. We happened to know what he looked like - so as he approached our booth we went into high gear. I proudly brought out the latest sample and prepared to show how easily it could be opened. Couldn't be done. I could not get the top off of the 'easily opens cord manager' and the buyer was getting closer. Our VP of sales saw me struggle and quickly snatched the product out of my hands and went at it. Digging his finger nails under the lid he brought all the might of his Cornell wrestling skills to bear on the small plastic box. Unfortunately for him, the plastic lid was stronger than his nails and as he pulled harder, his nails gave way - and he ended up bending each nail backwards at once. The last thing I remember was him turning tail and running away from the Walmart buyer - silently howling in a mixture of pain and frustration. Walmart never did end up stocking the product...

The last fail happened in Rimini Italy at a global sales meeting.

With sales directors from all around the world we had carefully prepared powerpoint presentations ready to go for each day. In addition - each sales director in turn had a carefully prepared presentation showing how amazing they were at managing their territory. As expected the first morning kicked off with a few hours of preamble and then the first of what promised to be many incredibly boring presentations.

As we broke for a traditional long Italian lunch  - none of us were looking forward to returning. A few hours and several glasses of wine later we returned to the hotel's conference room -and discovered that each laptop in the entire room had been stolen while we were gone. My two memories are the hotel manager arguing that it was simply impossible that the laptops had been stolen - we must have misplaced them (and he continued to argue this point for nearly an hour - insisting that we each search our own room to be sure we hadn't left them there by mistake) and more importantly - how well everything went after that. Forcing us all to use a white board and engage with the audience - instead of simply reading off a powerpoint presentation resulted in one of the best sales meetings I've been to.

Since that time I've learned to never rely on anything working live. Showing a new product? Have a picture at the ready. Showing a new website? Have screen grabs ready to show when the site goes down. Using a projector? Bring printouts and a white board marker. Be prepared and have a good restaurant with a great bar picked out in advance for the aftermath.


Cog in the wheel - when your routine doctor visit isn't.

What happens when your routine doctor visit turns into something "interesting and urgent"?

Three weeks ago today I went to my regularly scheduled annual skin check up. With a history of melanoma in my family and a squamous cell carcinoma removal from my left temple (via MOHS procedure) four years ago, my annual skin check up has become part of my regular routine. Each time it has gone pretty much the same way - quick check in and then I stand and lie while the PA goes over my skin inch by inch. I feel sort of like a horse on an auction block with potential bidders giving me the careful once over.

This visit was no different until the very end. I happened to mention that I noticed a small bump in my left axilla which I had first seen two weeks prior to my skin check up. The PA's ears perked up and she carefully palpated my armpit (which was soon to see more attention and action that it has in years...)

This was followed by a "hmmm" and "Let me see if I can get the MD on duty to give me a consult". The MD (who I had never met prior to this visit) then came in and thoroughly palpated my armpit again. My routine visit was about to get both interesting and urgent.

It turns out that when skin cancer metastasizeit frequently follows the lymph system and causes tumors to appear along the lymph draining system nearest to the original site. In my case it made the appearance of an unknown lump on the same side of my body as the original cancer a cause for concern. This quickly led to "do you have a primary care physician that you can get in to see tomorrow?" and "we'll go ahead and schedule an ultrasound for Friday" and "you'll probably go in for surgery next week".

What I was to quickly learn was that as soon as something with potential serious consequences is observed you lose control over your schedule. The next three weeks would be filled with ultrasounds, scheduled (and cancelled) surgery appointments and finally the successful removal of the lump. For me it was the loss of control (as well as the uncertainly of it all) that was hardest to deal with.

In my case the surgery was over quickly and the surgeon was encouraged by the appearance, location and make up of the lump. It it most likely completely benign (it turned out to be a lypoma - harmless). I can only imagine the schedule and total loss of control that happens when you test positive for cancer and the medical establishment takes over. I'm hoping to never find out first hand.

One of the challenges associated with all this was simply getting myself to and from the hospital. For patients actively undergoing treatment the simple act of driving is challenging. For that reason I would encourage Vermont readers to visit the volunteer driving opportunities organized by United Way. I'm putting this on my list of to do's when this is all behind me.