Thursday, April 05, 2007

The PC

It was all about the build-up.

Invitations, calling up to find out if the invited were going to show up because very few EVER bother to RSVP, event management (I didn't do this my colleague did and I observed her increasingly furrowed brow and swore to myself that I would never deal with hotels), the event itself, welcoming people, and then MC-ing the whole bloody thing with a script written about an hour before it was delivered.

At about three o'clock on the day itself, my friend Mary received a call.

"Angelchild? What's up?"

"Um Mares, I'm supposed to be MC for this thing."

"Yes, yes, I'm sure you'll do a fantastic job!" (She was enthusiastic. I, a little less so)

"Thing is, um, I don't have a script."

Silence.

More silence.

"Can you help?"

Mary, calm as ever asked me to run through the programme.

"OK first you gotta greet the VIPs....Yang Berbahagia, Yang Mulia...etc, etc). Do you have a list of the VIPs?"

Check.

"Then you have to introduce the event."

I scratched my head in perplexity. "It was supposed to be a signing ceremony. Then an announcement of a new shareholder. Shareholders in question objected. Now I don't know what to call it."

"OK don't worry, you'll figure it out."

Hmmmm, there's only like 55 minutes to go, so I wondered....

Anyways, we ran through the programme, and I took note of the normal stuff I was supposed to say. Introduce my CEO for a speech. Thank him for his speech. If possible comment on it (which should be easy since I wrote the damn thing, then coached him as to how to deliver it, being very bossy and exacting about pronunciation and emphasis and smiles and hand movements)

(Thanks Mares, you saved my life. I mean it!)

Anyway the reporters started trickling in. The first one arrived an hour early, looked at his watch and hoped aloud that we wouldn't start late.

"Aiyo, the thing is only due to start at 5.30lar. Chill!"

Some of the VIPs started to meader in as well. One took my card and raised an eyebrow. "Strategic communications? Are there communications that aren't strategic?"

I was accustomed to the question. So I cocked an eyebrow in turn and told him that corporate communications smacked too much of PR and I had none (PR that is, along with tact and diplomacy and the whole shebang).

Anyway I swirled in and out of the crowd feeling increasingly queasy. At one point, close to the start, I actually felt dizzy and the room started to spin. You see, our simple little event was assuming gigantic proportions. The guest list was like a Who's Who. Tan Sris rubbed shoulders with Datuks. Quiet policymakers and company head honchos were quietly observant. Words of wisdom fell like jewels from their lips. "Eh bugger! What is thislar?" Our seating was so far from adequate that all our staff stood at the door to leave room for guests and media.

I dragged my reluctant footsteps to the podium. Swallowed once or twice. Invited everyone to take their seats. They ignored me (maybe they didn't hear me) and continued the chattery buzz. My colleague signalled that nobody was moving. I raised my voice and barked in stentorian tones (I was after all, a school prefect once upon a time): "LADIES AND GENTLEMAN WILL YOU PLEASE TAKE YOUR SEATS. WE ARE ABOUT TO BEGIN!!!!"

They sauntered in and did so. The VIPs made their way to VIP seats. The lesser mortals to the lesser mortal seats. I stood on stage, surveyed the crowd, tried to imagine them all in their underwear, took a deep breath and decided that was not the way to go and launched into the welcome.

"Be funny!" my bosses had said.

"Tell jokes," my bosses had added.

"But, but, but, it's a serious event," I had faltered.

Now up on stage, I wondered...

"Anyway ladies and gentleman, welcome to our tagline unveiling ceremony. Thank you for braving the traffic and stormy weather (I had wanted to say inclement weather, but didn't think anyone would understand. I was right) to be here with us today.

Our chairman who had never met me before leaned over and whispered to the COO. "You paid for an MC?"

Our ever-cost conscious COO, negatived this vehemently: "Our stafflar!"

Anyway, I told the crowd that our event would be short and sweet. "No frills means never having to say you're bored."

And then I introduced our CEO who would be giving what was supposed to be the only speech for the evening. It was exactly eight minutes in length, punctuated by exclamations, laughs, invitations to the audience to clap, and snide remarks about our new shareholder.

He took the stage and went at it like a pro. I was so proud of him. The audience laughed appreciatively. This was not a boring speech by a stuffy finance-related CEO. It was sort of short, very punchy, and funny.

Reading the speech the first time, he said: "This does not sound like me."

He attempted some changes.

I amended his amendments, telling him to keep it punchy and stop going all over the place. "Be direct!" (Financiers are never direct. Their cardinal rule seems to be, if I can say something in one word, let me use 10).

Anyway, he cracked them up, and descended to a storm of clapping.

I took the stage again: "My CEO ladies and gentleman, give him another round of applause." I commented on some of the points of his speech. Then I introduced the chairman, who would give an impromptu speech.

It was one of those mind-blowing experiences. He spoke so well....without any preparation. Sure, he repeated a lot of things the CEO had said. But he did it with such panache he seemed to make it his own. So this was the famous man everyone was always going on about.

When the chairman descended to thunderous applause. I went through the rest of the thing...went like a dream. Then I asked the guests to depart for a simple repast while the press stayed back for press conference. The guests looked at me blankly and didn't move. Simple repast is not in the Malaysian lexicon. Refreshments is. I repeated myself more simply. Guests took off and media remained to ask lotsa questions. I was chuffed that there were both foreign and local press there.

After the PC, a fake reporter tried to elbow his way in. Thing is, everything had been taken down and the guests had departed (wonder of wonders, we kept ourselves to the time limit and the event was in fact short and sweet). My marketing manager dealt with him. Kindly but firmly, she refused to introduce him to the rest of us, saying we were not relevant to his purpose (whatever that was) and asked him to drop her an email. We watched her deal with the big lug glad it was not us. The head of one of our business units remarked: "If that was me, I would lose my temper." I nodded. As would I. A colleague said later: "Gosh, I would have threatened physical violence." In short, we were a little less than sympathetic.

We adjourned to the lobby to repair the tissues. One colleague told me: "I don't want this to come out the wrong way, but you are kind of a dominatrix on stage."

I pondered this for a while, wondering how to take it. Pretty exhausted by now. Other people said kinder things.

One made a pass.

And so it goes, and so it goes.

Oh yeah, and we got brilliant coverage the next day.

Simply outstanding.

7 comments:

part-time buddha said...

Well done, Jenn! Simply brilliant!

(I'm totally sniggering at your having been a prefect. Though I'm not surprised.)

It's really great to hear a happy story from your new job. Maybe you're settling in a bit? Or maybe you're settling the job in around you? (That's where the dominatrix part of you comes in handy, though not the only place, I'm sure.)

Whichever the case, I'm glad to read a happy story from you.

lemontree said...

congratulations jenn! .... and a star is born :)

hot coffee girl said...

Bah.

I knew you were brilliant before THEY did.

Grey Shades said...

Guys jus wont let go the opportunity to make a pass right? :) Glad to hear that you are enjoying the new job!

Jackie said...

I knew you'd do a fantastic job! You rock, girl. Congrats. So nice the new job is working out for you.

Susanna said...

Great job, Jenn!

Jenn said...

PTB: Thanks Bo. And maybe I'm not. So ambivalent. That's what you get from staying away from real clock-in at nine in the morning work for four years.

lemon: A star? A star? A candle born to flicker briefly and then go out.

HCG: Hehe.

Grey: I wish I could tell you about that asshole but maybe when we finally catch up eh?

Jackie: Haha...rock. Like the one sitting on my head at the moment. Have you ever had a hangover without drinking?

Susanna: Sweet.