Anti-climax at the end of the De!

My dad always told me about the importance of preparing well – something I have come to learn from every client presentation too. The value in knowing your client’s brand/business as well as they do clearly shows in the solutions you craft for them. And every time you enter a room un-prepared, you can be sure to get some flak right on your face! In a creative world, I have learnt that crap doesn’t sell… being prepared and adding value does. Here’s an episode that will help drive my point.

At a recent conference I attended – the Nasscom Diversity & Inclusivity Summit, the IT industry’s head honchos and top women leadership came forth to discuss issues around diversity in India. A multi-generational workforce, work opportunities for the disabled, retaining the women employees post maternity, and other such issues were discussed at length.

One of the first few addresses to the audience was that of Vinita Bali, CEO, Britannia. And I have to add, that the lady had the audience spell-bound with the direct, straight-from-the-heart address, citing real-life instances from her own life. She gave us the best anecdotes Β on diversity and inclusion – efficacy of corporate boards the moment they include 2 women on it; the need to value the diversity in the workforce just as an organisation values the diversity of its target audience; the need to not only have a diverse workforce but install processes that make this workforce feel included by hearing their issues, etc. were just some of the golden nuggets from her.

At the other end of the spectrum however, was the address by Shobha De. As the afternoon went into a couple of laborious sessions – as post-lunch sessions normally are – we all stayed back waiting for the diva to grace the conference. And the reason I am comparing her address to Vinita Bali’s is that while the latter set the tone for a fantastic day, the former took all the punch out of it. Not only did Shobha De keep an already-tired audience waiting, but she came in under-dressed for a conference of this nature – well that’s what I’d say, when at an event the women who were dressed in Indian and western formals, were treated to a talk by someone dressed in informal black slacks and a tunic, with decorative shoes. And what’s more – appearances could have been washed aside if the content of the talk added value to the subject of the conclave. Well, here, the audience was told of the stone-massage at the ITC Gardenia (she breezed into the room just after her hours at the spa, citing that as the reason for keeping us waiting!), the Karnataka Chief Minister’s misgivings, the Indian concept of ‘jugaad’, and what not.

Lack of preparation? Well, almost certainly, for we would have appreciated some true-value examples, strategies, statistics on diversity and its importance on a global context from someone who is well-read, well-travelled and well-networked. And even if they are tales outside of the IT milieu, some stories tend to leave their mark… but not this one!

(However, I have to say that I like Shobha’s style, the graceful way she carries herself otherwise – sarees!, her columns, her panache and all of it. Perhaps that’s why I feel let down at the end of the day, when she underestimated her audience and is otherwise quick to point out such faults in others!)

    • reema moudgil
    • November 24th, 2010

    am not at all surprised..she is a sham..always was..

    • Sandhya
    • November 25th, 2010

    Bad Shobha! She should have prepared and been on time…or had a better excuse!!!
    Loved reading it Tina! Nicely said πŸ™‚

    • Sandeep
    • November 25th, 2010

    Nice post Tina.

    • Sonia
    • November 25th, 2010

    Shobha De- What a let down. Vinita Bali- I am just not surprised. The petite lady packs quite a punch with her oratory skills . She is very congruent when she speaks and quite engages with the audience. Signs of a great speaker

    • Aparna Balasubramaniam
    • November 25th, 2010

    Very well written!I find most non-business celebrities do tend to under-estimate their audiences and rely on their fame to carry them through!

  1. Thank you all for writing and letting me know what you think!

    • shefali
    • November 25th, 2010

    Tina, nicely put. i so relate to this. i think it’s about showing respect towards others – when you keep people waiting and don’t dress appropriately it shows that you just don’t care too much about them. and then isn’t it very true that the tree that bends is the one loaded with fruit. humility and respect for others can make life so much easier for everyone. good one, Tina πŸ™‚

    • rajesh suneja
    • November 25th, 2010

    more often than not these “glamor” additions to business meets (and other events as well) are there for the freebies -in this case spa sessions – instead of adding any real value to them.

    recently i saw her on “walk the talk” and she’s been on every other show on NDTV as a panelist …she really doesn’t have any specific thoughts on any issue…its all generic stuff like “jugaad” (which has become her favorite word now it seems…not surprising since that’s what she uses at most of these shows) and recycling of what she’s been writing the past decade or so. either its lack of preparation or she’s taking her “celebrity” status too seriously and feels people will hang on to her every word whether it makes sense or not.

    • Radhika R
    • November 25th, 2010

    Nina, I agree with you totally. Long ago I had learnt that one must always be well prepared – a presentation was compared to an “Iceberg” the tip of the iceberg above the water being the final presentation while the portion below the water – the research and preparation. I too like Shobha De and as you said this is a total let down.

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