Friday, 25 September 2009

Adrenalin rush

Over lunch, Costel asked me whether I was a little tense, waiting for my presentation at 2 pm. I have done it a "thousand" times (that's is an exaggeration of course) but each time I have to go up on stage (figuratively speaking), I can definitely feel a little "tense". I said, "that is good because it helps to keep you on your toes". The adrenalin keeps you alert and gives you an energy boost to put on a show. Over dinner, Campbell, the Scot was speaking Spanish and I discovered he speaks 4 languages. I said "and you have not made a professional career out of it?". He said yes, he did, a long time ago. He was a professional simultaneous translator. I asked him if he has a "5 second" delay in translating what is being said by the speaker. He said no, it's word for word and instantaneous. Doesn't the sentence get all jumbled up? How do you know what word comes next? Well, it just comes out naturally, said Campbell. It's like a well-horned skill that you do it instinctively. It's the same thing with presentation skills. You horn it as you do more presentations. Generally you get better at it. You want to get better at it. Otherwise it just gets boring. Yes, sometimes despite your best thought-out flow and well-laid out slides, you could bomb out and you finish your speech feeling not quite accomplished.

The UNESCO-CEPES Building where the workshop is being held

Beautiful interior with elaborate wood craving motifs on the ceiling. That's Campbell in the foreground working as rappoteur, not just typing in everything being said. I think he processes, synthesise and interprets as he writes. This is a skill very much in demand from countries where the locals are "not so good with the written English"

Well, yesterday was one of my better (perhaps best?) performance, judging by the reactions from the fellow speakers. They liked the style (they didn't fall asleep). They felt engaged. And most important of all, they like the message (i.e. the content of the speech). You can be a damn good speaker but these are discerning audience. They want to see "your stuff".

What did I come all the way here for? To deliver a speech on "The Futures of Higher Education : USM's preferred pathway as Malaysia's APEX University". I had 45 minutes, which is a long time to hold people's attention. I did it with 5 minutes to spare. The presentation traced our journey from 2000 as we went through various stages of developing and implementing various initiatives leading us to where we are today. The main focus was on scenario planning and how our visioning led us to the transformation plan for the APEX U programme.

I think what they appreciated most was two things. One, the continuity of the various efforts leading to the APEX U transformation plan. And two, that we have created a model or package which is distinctly our own. We did not merely say that we want to become World Class by aiming to be say, top 50 on the World University Ranking. In particular, they were very much attracted to the idea of integrating sustainability into the transformation plan. During the presentation, I looked at the speaker from Germany and said that the APEX U programme was modelled after the German system and that an expert from Germany was one of the evaluators/reviewer of the bids in Malaysia. After my presentation, some one else spoke about Manchester U's strategic plan, which essentially says that they want to eventually become top 40 on the rankings. Of course, with due respect to Man U, the speaker was not involved in the development of the plan but one member of the audience said it lacked imagination (comparing it with USM). Later, the German speaker pointed out to another speaker that "sustainability" was missing from the work being done by that European Union supported research organisation working on issues of higher education and suggested that it should be taken as a new project. That suggestion was accepted. But I think the most glowing tribute to USM's effort was when the same German speaker said that maybe in 5 or 10 years, the Germans will have to visit USM and learn from us. Wow, what an adrenalin rush. So, Dear Vice-Chancellor of USM, I have done the selling, now we got to deliver.

So, why is Romania interested in what USM is doing? The short version is that they are undertaking a foresight programme to help chart they pathway for higher education. They seem very interested in USM's approach and wants to talk some more about how we (I?) can be involved with some of the workshops. So, I am predicting that I may come this way again; maybe. But the Romanians are very ambitious. It's a three year project to revamp the whole higher education of the country.

Here's some pics.

The people behind the scenes - the professionals who coordinates logistics.


Philine, Ariel and Ozcan - new collaborators?

It's a small group meeting - about 20 or so participants. This workshop is mainly to lay the groundwork.
What's a workshop without food and drinks? With Radu, deputy director of the project. That thing is 50% alcohol; way too strong for me. You are supposed to drink in a single shot!


Abe said...

Great job Dr,
Keep it up...but hope USM delivers what it preached..


omid said...

great . usm overtakes euoroupe