“There are always three speeches, for every one you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.”
– Dale Carnegie
I am sitting in San Jose airport, awaiting the first leg of my journey home. So ends 5 days in Palo Alto, California. California seems to move at a slower pace; in this part of the State anyway. A colorful collection of cafes, tea shops, pubs and eateries line University Avenue in the downtown core of Palo Alto. This collection of quaint eateries infuses the sun-speckled air with a myriad of aromas. Mmmmm….
At the heart of this agreeable little city is Stanford University, one of the most prestigious learning institutions in the world. Nestled in Santa Clara Valley on the San Francisco Peninsula, the campus is beautiful – pristine. And I – yep “ME” – had the distinct opportunity to participate in and present at the Triple Helix IX Conference at Stanford University. My presentation was on Public Private Partnerships: a comparative of national innovations of agricultural research in Australia and Canada. It was a happy coincidence that this Canadian happened to be dressed like the ‘Crocodile Hunter’, replete with khakis and a cream, button-down MEC shirt for the event.
But I digress… this is how the presentation went…
Things kicked off in room “Berg C” of the The Li Ka Shing Center for Learning and Knowledge at 4:30 on Wednesday. Five speakers, 90 minutes. If you do the math, that is approximately 18 minutes for each presenter including set up and Q&A. I was lucky #5; in that enviable spot where one is book ended by brilliant speakers on one side and the sweet promise of conference freedom and ‘happy hour’ at the other. I knew that I had to be both dazzling and quick.
Eighty one (81) minutes in, speaker #4 was still on paragraph 3, line 2 of slide 6 (!?!?!). Not looking good for me. The puzzling part is that the moderator seemed completely happy with the job she was doing and was content to allow all speakers to drone on and on. I was growing impatient.
I managed to load my presentation and get started at 5:59. All was going well. In the interest of time, I skimmed over some of the literature and quickly moved through methodology to the analysis/results. In the middle of my brilliant oration on sensitivity analysis (this had to be about 6:05), a bell suddenly echoed across room (it was much like the ‘ding’ that precedes airport announcements). With that, the massive screen in “Berg C” lifted and the lights promptly dimmed.
I looked at the moderator quizzically. Her response was to lift a small, elegant shoulder and say: “I guess you are done” in a syrupy southern accent.
Are you kidding me?
Long story short, I finished my presentation orally. This is somewhat ineffective when one relies on graphs and networks to explain complex things.
So, yes, that sucked. But the rest of my time in Palo Alto was wonderful. My good friend and colleague Cooper was in attendance (this is his 7th TH Conference out of 9) and I had the privilege of meeting his new wife. My cousin Jill lives close (ish) to Palo Alto, so we spent some time eating, driving around, and drinking beer and catching up. I also had the opportunity to connect with my friend Chris (who I first met at Carnegie Mellon University in 2005). We seem to meet up at conferences or through travel every two or three years and it was really great to spend some time exchanging thoughts, theories, and laughs over good ginger tea.
Other highlights included attending the Triple Helix IX gala dinner at the Faculty Club at Stanford where we were entertained by the Silicon Gulch Jazz Band and guest speaker and networking technology pioneer, Judy Estrin, gave us her views on entrepreneurship and innovation. The Faculty Club also had what one might refer to as an alumni ‘wall of fame’ with photos of the likes of Arrow, Williamson, Friedman (the list goes on and on). Amazing…
Despite the ‘presentation fiasco’, the Conference was well worthwhile. This aca-preneur has developed a bit of skepticism with respect to the oft-used, nebulous terms like “triple helix”, “innovation” and “clusters”. But, as always, I enjoyed mingling with folks and sharing ideas and, of course, delighted in experiencing a new space in the world!