In short, I blew it. Big time. Totally screwed the pooch at Adobe MAX in my “What’s Your Type?” session. I accepted a speaking gig on the basis of my desire to speak at a prestigious conference instead of my desire to share what I know and how I view things. I was actually just talking to Joel Grimes the morning of my disaster, and completely unrelated he passed on some advice: don’t take all the jobs. Lesson learned.
Look, we all face failure now and then. And to this point, I’d been pretty good (but not lucky) about being able to rise to the challenge of teaching something new and a little foreign to me. Hell, I thrive on accepting jobs that I don’t yet know how to do. It’s a thing for me.
When I got the call to ask if I’d be willing to speak, I was thrilled. I had been hoping for this chance at Adobe MAX for a couple of years, but always envisioned I’d be able to do my own thing. I was a little nervous talking about type tools, but figured I could get a grasp on the materials well enough to share something insightful and creative and useful.
And I could have. But I never got the chance. Rather, I never gave myself the chance. I misunderstood my opportunity, and I tried to force some content into the presentation that just should never have been there.
I fucked up.
But what I fucked up is the key thing. I ignored my instinct and expertise, and I didn’t correct my course fast enough. Here’s the perfect summary of the session:
Almost offended that Adobe would ask someone who has such little experience in a subject to present it. It was a cringey experience … And when his cursor disappeared I thought he was going to just end it. I really felt bad for him when half of the room walked out on him, but honestly, I can’t blame them. He would have been great had he been presenting a familiar subject, but admitted that typography wasn’t his specialty. Poor guy.
“It was a cringey experience…”
Exactly. And I shouldn’t have put my personal desire to speak at MAX above the experience of the attendees. It was a complete disservice to them and an embarrassment to me. The worst part is that it reduced the value of the conference for these people who are world-class professionals in what they do.
What do I do from here? For one, I’m going to start paying more attention to the risks that come with venturing into the unknown. Some challenges are worth it, but the risk here was entirely to the attendees and I was blind to that. If I can’t guarantee to exceed expectations, I won’t accept it.
For another, I’m going to fucking dive into type. I will learn this shit inside and out. Not so I can turn around “do better”. Nope. I’m doing it because that damned horse bucked me the hell off, and I will NOT stay on the ground.
I’ll get another chance to speak, but I may have to wait a while – deservedly so. Trust in this industry is won, not given, and I burned a ton up on this trip. The whole week had been pretty much a disaster, so I should not be surprised that I screwed up so badly. I’ve got to spend some time building that trust up again, but the good news is I have that time available.
So I’m going to take that time and make sure the next disaster is completely different than this one.