The second day of our corporate family gathering was punctuated by 'interludes'. Some of the interludes featured incomprehensible presentations by creative professionals from other parts of the world. A less than captivating host for that section summed up with the hilarious remark ‘Well I think we’re all speaking the same language.’ I can only imagine that she was referring to the universal language of PowerPoint yawning.
The other interludes were severally called ‘Who are we?’ I had glanced at the email about these sessions: ‘do something creative and FUN to capture your team’s USP for the rest of the family’. I am usually in the habit of emphasising my USP to my actual family by way of a carefully crafted limerick.
I presumed that the rest of my team – Susan; Morag and Oonagh from The National Clay Pipe Centre – had received the same email.
The ‘Who are we?’ segments were a minute long and this time limit was brutally enforced by someone with a klaxon. This device added to the rip-roaring fun had by all. I was reminded of Archie and his gig as a best man’s assistant.
Some teams had gone to a great deal of trouble. A southern team performed a dumb show with the help of a long piece of paper emblazoned with elements of the team ethos. The paper was unrolled as a group effort and featured all the requisite words. The team members gambolled about like excitable Andrex puppies with a big loo roll of creativity. The giddy haste of a one-minute task brought about a few rips in the paper. I was quite near the front of the room and could see that the roll was A4 sheets held together with sellotape. Words such as ‘imagination’ and ‘partnership’ were unfortunately torn through.
One of the northern teams had made the trip to Bristol early – arriving the night before. They had carefully considered how best to prepare for the gathering and their ‘Who are we?’ slot. The consensus spoke and said something like: ‘It’s only a minute, let’s go to the pub.’ To their credit, they prepared their USP-promoting spiel five minutes before they were handed the microphone. They spaced themselves around the room and passed the microphone from shaking hungover hand to shaking hungover hand – each saying a single word before the relay continued. The movement around the room used up plenty of their minute, so that the resulting presentation was a simple phrase:
Morag had glared at me intermittently for most of the first day of the conference – the ‘Who are we?’ slot being news to her.
‘Did you know about this?’
I was evasive and suggested that the email must have been blocked by the weird email filter at The National Clay Pipe Centre – the filter which seems to bounce any email lacking the key word ‘pipe’.
Another batch of ‘Who are we?’ interludes was scheduled for the second morning and I was happily labouring under a heavy hangover. I hadn’t quite coincided with Morag at breakfast, so she had prepared our ‘USP’ alone – a brief speech before handing the microphone to Susan and I. It was agreed that we would simply say who we were.
Other teams swept around the room. Each in turn assaulted us with its USP. Flashcards were used, faux dashes to the lectern were used, even puppets made an appearance.
The turn of the National Clay Pipe Centre came around while I was still reeling from the impact of so many USP’s in close succession. Morag took the microphone and launched into her vision for the new team. I was more interested in the time she was taking than the detail. I could see Susan’s hand reaching out for the microphone as we passed the half-minute mark. Morag was just getting into her stride. Susan raised her hand a little higher and feigned a grab to attract Morag’s attention. Morag remembered the one-minute rule just in time to allow Susan to say her name and pass the microphone to me. I drew breath and was about to remind the ‘family’ that its old retainer was still around and was fired up for the excitement and challenge of another year at the coalface of creativity.
The klaxon sounded.
I could hear another team rustling behind me to cheerily snatch the microphone. I was forever to be ‘that tall guy who didn’t get time to say who he was’. Before I handed on the baton, I found myself thinking aloud while still 'on air':
‘Story of my life....’
My new touch-screen mobile phone seemed reluctant to recognise my touch as I texted details of my embarrassment to Maude during the comfort break. As I swore at it on the stairwell, the National Director passed by and bestowed a few words on me.
‘Well done you’, he smiled.