BY SARAH MEGGINSON
I remember the day like it was yesterday, and just thinking about it makes me cringe with embarrassment.
It was October 2006, and I was working in marketing, helping to put together the annual conference and awards night – “The Logie Awards for our industry,” we called it.
I wasn’t involved in the fun party planning stuff as much as the conference. A big part of my job was getting the conference packets – those hefty dossiers that attendees get when they register – organised. They’re designed to loosely match up to what the speaker is gabbing on about, so people can follow along and make notes during each presentation.
I don’t think I can overstate the importance of these conference packs – to my boss, at least. (I was crushed on conference day to see most of the delegates take the folders I’d painstakingly designed, printed and assembled under a four-stage approval process and toss them under their seat, unopened).
Nor can I find the right words to express how passionately and aggressively my boss ripped me a new one when I confessed to him, a few nights before the conference, that one of our eccentric international guest speakers still hadn’t sent me his notes for inclusion in the pack.
I’m not sure you understand the gravity of the situation. You see, a 20-minute period of time was set to elapse during which a speaker would present, and the audience would be forced to listen and follow along – without the benefit of detailed notes in their conference pack.
My boss was livid. There was swearing. Lots of shouting. A little bit of name-calling and more than one dramatic sigh of, “How could you be so incompetent? I just can’t believe this is happening!”
Now, looking back, I get that my boss was under loads of pressure, and I should have told him about our dossier catastrophe earlier than I did. But truthfully, I was terrified of him. He had been slowly, subtly undermining my work and chipping away at my confidence for months.
So, instead of admitting we were one presentation short, I crossed my fingers and hoped and prayed that at the eleventh hour, the speaker would email me his notes as promised. He didn’t.
Instead, I stood silently in the conference room as he screamed at me for what felt like an hour, but was probably five minutes. I felt humiliated and ashamed and I willed myself not to cry, not just because I felt like I’d ruined the entire conference – but also because my husband was in my office next door. He’d showed up an hour earlier to help me package all the folders up into boxes for delivery to the venue. I was mortified.