Business Class China

June 2017

When I was not traveling, I was working my way up in the company. I had started in October as a Technical Writer and by May I was the team’s Product Manager. I leveraged this role to travel and give presentations, attend conferences, anything to get me on another plane (even if it was to Orlando). I had decided in 2017 that I wanted to learn public speaking and how to give presentations, so I threw myself onto the stage and into the spotlight.

In May I surprised Bekah for her birthday in Spokane on my way to speaking at a Write the Docs conference in Portland, OR. It was the first time I spoke to a large audience and I was very very nervous. I barely slept for two days before and I spent a while talking on the phone to this cute guy named Matt that I’d started dating right before I went to Cuba.

Want to see how nervous I was in my presentation?

I make bad jokes when I’m nervous, it’s my tell.

I’d like to think I got better at public speaking but I just got used to how nerve-wrecking it was. When an opportunity to go to China came up at work, I threw my hat into the ring. Little did I know what I was getting myself into.

I came face-to-face with my face, nearly life-sized

The one time that I wished my flight was longer was during the 13-hour flight from Boston to Beijing via DC. (I thought) the trip was my dream come true: I was on a real business trip, though sitting in Economy. Yes it was a hectic, last-minute trip and I was on my own to juggle all the business strategy which made me queasy. So I was in no rush to land. When I arrived I would have to give a presentation that I hadn’t had enough time to practice to a few hundred people. I was playing a part in a big sales pitch so that my company’s partner could seal more deals.

It was completely different from the first time I’d visited China. It was a blur of business cards, expensive hotels, endless meetings, sweltering in un-air conditioned taxi’s, fancy meals, and days of conferences. I was there all on my own, giving presentations and having meetings with researchers, managers, business leaders, heads of companies I’d never heard of. I struggled to keep the names and relations straight, trying to say the right thing but make no promises, pretend I understood what they were talking about, and represent my company well. It was a crash course in how to make sh*t up really fast in front of cameras and on stage.

My presentation was over, but I was on stage and someone handed me a microphone. Two people spoke in Chinese, then both looked at me. This is what I look like when I am making things up REALLY fast.
The pomp and circumstance was like a rock concert

After a few days, I was a wreck. After 10 days, I was a mess. Poor Matt, my dear boyfriend half a world away, would wake up at 6am, or stay up until midnight, to talk to me or listen to me cry, at a loss for how to help me. I was so out of my depth and I think everyone knew it too.

Lots of numbers
That’s my presentation face
Pictures! Look at the pictures! Don’t listen to me.
Frantically taking notes so that I could ask someone later what they were talking about
Another day, another presentation
Big statues, much impressive
Bigger statues, more impressive
Skyline of Shenzhen

Eventually it was over, and there was an upside to the trip: a few days in Korea. I made a quick detour to visit my friend Ariella, who I’d met in Sri Lanka six months before. It was a fun way to end a pretty tumultuous business trip.

Night market in Daegu
Sharing snacks with Ariella

Unfortunately I’d already committed myself to another speaking engagement, this time in Czechia (aka the Czech Republic). The stakes were lower with a 5 minute presentation in front of less than 100 people. Easy peasy.

I spent two days in Český Krumlov before the conference in Prague

Want to watch another video of me awkwardly presenting?

Can’t say I didn’t warn you

Categories: China

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