Tuesday, November 29, 2005

One of those days

Yesterday was just one of those days. It was a Monday, of course, and I seemed to be suffering from the effects of a busy weekend where L-B had turned 12 and we'd seemed to have people in, out and through the house absolutely all of Saturday and Sunday.

Anyway, I learned two lessons yesterday: never get dressed in the dark, and don't go into pitch meetings when you have a migraine.

With L-B heading off for the school bus shortly after 7.30am each morning, we're all up a bit earlier now. It was still dark outside when I crawled out from under a very warm duvet and opened the wardrobe to inspect what was a) clean b) businesswear c) vaguely matching.

To my mind I'd selected a blue jacket, blue stripey shirt and grey trousers. Anyway, more of that later.

The effects of a non-stop weekend had left me with the seeds of a migraine. Sophie and Rory fighting just before we left for school brought the first shoots of pain and vivid colour, and by the time I got into the office and sat down at the PC, my brain was somewhat disconnected from the rest of me.

Anyway, a couple of migraleve later, I was printing out a credentials pack for the three people I was meeting as I pitched to take on the PR for a hotel/conference centre. Now external media relations is stretching our skills a little - I have done it, but not for a while. However, this potential client approached us and this was a call-back following an initial meeting.

I was driving over beyond Oxford for the lunchtime meeting, my head now settled into a dull throb, when I glanced at my grey flannel trousers. They were, of course, not my grey flannel trousers, but a pair of suit trousers, black with brown pinstripes. Funnily enough, they go great with the shirt. Also the shirt goes really well with the jacket. But the jacket and the trousers actually don't match up at all.

By now I was past Oxford with just 30 minutes to get to the meeting - no chance to nip home and change or even into a shop to get something more appropriate. No surprise them when the headache began to kick back in.

I arrived at the potential client and met not three but four immaculately dressed execs. I'd explained by e-mail that my pitch style was conversational and that I would rather talk with them than merely do a show-and-tell presentation.

For the next 40 minutes they sat stony faced; hardly an interjection; no signs of emotion really either way. It also seemed that the brief I was working to had moved on, so much of the basis for my PR plan was on very unsteady ground. One person in the meeting grew openly hostile, another said absolutely nothing in the who 90 minutes I was on site. Meanwhile a small team of navvies was alternately drilling at the back of my eye sockets and then hammering at the inside of my temples.

I alternately wanted the ground to open up and swallow me and to slap the new marketing manager whose role seemed only to score points at my expense. Of course I just smiled, was polite and carried on climbing the north face of Everest.

I know we could do the job and do it very well for the client. Our prices are keen and our ideas - based on the brief - were sound. However, I came out of the meeting feeling that our chances of success are about the same as a snowball in my oven lasting through Christmas.

I'll wait and see for the client to come back......But the blue jacket/brown pinstripe combination was NOT a good idea.


Lee Hopkins said...

Oh Mark,

I SOOOO feel the pain of wearing mis-matched suits.

I lived in Reading for a few years and one day had a very important meeting with a woman at IBM in (I think) Uxbridge.

Not wishing to wake my sleeping girlfriend, I dressed in the dark, headed off in the jam jar to the meeting and was duly met at Reception.

Taken on a tour of the woman's fiefdom, I couldn't help but notice the stares of her colleagues. Prolonged stares, incredulous looks at me as if I was an idiot.

Sitting in a meeting with her and her boss, attempting to sound credible, I looked down and realised I had put on a dark blue pinstripe double-breasted jacket and dark grey trousers.

I felt a complete and utter idiot.

At lunch I wandered over to the massive canteen in just trouser, shirt and tie, leaving my jacket in the woman's office. It was mid-winter. The wind was the sort that the chappy on Radio 4 calls, "Gale Force 7 Pharoahs and South East Iceland".

I eventually finished my day-long meeting, somewhat more reticent than I had started it, and headed home.

I never heard from the woman again.

I have carried the psychological scar for 15 years and NEVER dress in the dark now! {grin}

Steve Nichols said...

I thought it was just me!

I once travelled to London the night before an important meeting and had that nagging, "I've forgotten something" feeling that seems to accompany me on just about every business trip I do now.

I should have paid more attention - I had forgotten to pack any trousers! All I had was the rather scruffy jeans I was wearing.

Not good!

Luckily, a late night trip to the 24-hour Docklands Asda unearthed a rather tight fitting (no they didn't have my size) pair of black trousers that saved the day.

I'd like to think I learned a lesson that day, but I doubt it!