Worst. Conference Presentation. Ever.

See this gentleman?


He’s kind of stern looking, isn’t he?    One gets the impression he didn’t laugh much.

If it’s any indication, I can tell you he yelled at me in public once.

This was when I used to have a job where I actually used my brain.  Back almost 20 years ago, when I was presenting a paper at a conference.

It might have been the 2nd paper I ever presented, I was still fresh and new at this.   There were many sessions going on at the same time…my talk was scheduled in a small tiny room, in the back-waters of the Convention Centre, with perhaps only 10-12 people attending.

But these were all quite important people.  Senior academics and department heads,  sales/marketing businessmen, respected industrial engineers.

They were colleagues of my boss, and because of him, they had all come to hear what little old me had to say.

Except this one guy, who looked older than Moses.  He spent the entire time sitting with his arms folded, head down, apparently asleep.  He didn’t move the whole time I spoke.  I wonder who else besides me was worried if the old guy had just died in his sleep.

My talk went reasonably well: I presented my data and  explained my conclusions.  Then it was time for questions.

Instantly,  Gramps woke up.

And then he started to do what every public speaker dreads:  he started YELLING at me.

“Your paper is WRONG!  You didn’t do THIS…you didn’t’ do THAT.  Your data is WRONG!   You didn’t refer to the work of Professor F. Meigh…you didn’t refer to the work of his collegue Dr. Grunion either.   Your conclusions are WRONG!”

…he just went on and on.  Tearing me apart in front of everyone.

Then, quickly as it had begun, his tirade ended.   He sat down, went limp, and went back to sleep.

The room was quiet.  My boss was wincing.   I was temporarily shell-shocked.

But not for too long.  Bristling with anger (how DARE this guy attack me like that?), I gave my rebuttal.

For once in my life,  I had the right comeback at the right time:

“Actually, if you examine the manuscript, you’ll see that I DID do this.   And I DID do THAT.  My data is RIGHT.   And I DID refer to Professor F. Meigh and Dr. Grunion.   And if you’ll check on Figure 3, you’ll see that my conclusions are CORRECT”.

During this exchange, the old guy didn’t even raise his head. His eyes were closed, he was playing Possum.   He didn’t even have the courtesy to acknowledge my presence, or make eye contact with me.

Nice.    Really nice.

The session was over.   When we all filed out of the room, one of the audience members came up to me, and sympathetically patted me on the back.

“You actually handled old Charlie quite well….don’t worry about it, he does this to everybody who’s new”.

It seems I had completed a rite of passage.  Old Charlie McGarnaggle was known for behaving this way. Instead of being a kindly old academic mentor, he apparently liked to challenge scientists and engineers, and intimidate them and put them on the spot.

And everyone seemed to accept it.

That’s just Old Charlie, they’d say.

Hmph.  Not me.  I might have had OTHER things to say about him, though.

Worst.   Conference presentation.   Ever.

Even to this day.


Fast forward about 15 years.

I was now a more seasoned Research Engineer.  I had presented more than my share of papers, and I had a modest reputation.  I was even starting to be accepted by some members of the Old Boys Club.

Imagine my suprise when I got called, out of the blue, by the National Frammit PapJack Conference Committee.

“Remember that recent paper you wrote?” they asked me.

“Uh..yeah.  I guess” I answered.

“Well, it’s been given the Charles McGarnaggle Memorial Award.   For the best Paper in the area of Applied Chemistry and Widget Optimization.    We’d like you to come to the 2005 Conference with your co-authors to accept the award.  There’ a gold pin and a framed certificate we’d like to give you.”


That mean old guy.  The one who gave me shit all those years ago because he didn’t like my work.

He’s dead, and I’m still around.

And I’m being given an award in HIS name!

(Pffft…snicker!)   Hahahah!

If he knew it was me, he’d probably be spinning in his grave.

Funny how Life’s like that.


Now, my only problem is, that I’ve got this award sitting in my closet.

It’s too nice to throw out.   It’s in a high-quality diploma format, mounted in a nice frame.

But they had to put Charlie’s stern-looking face on it.

The one shown here.

Staring at me.   Taunting me.

Ready to yell at me all over again.

Which is why I don’t hang this on any walls.  It still sits in the closet.

Though I can just hear people tell me:  “Oh, never mind, that was just old Charlie.”

(Yeah, that was him, all right).

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27 Comments on “Worst. Conference Presentation. Ever.”

  1. Brett Legree Says:

    Kind of like how my degree was sitting in the closet for the last 10 years until I needed it a month or so ago for an interview…

    (now it is sitting on my desk – must put it back in the frame)

    Well, it doesn’t matter if the award sits in the closet or is on the wall – next time someone at work questions your engineering ability (someone with a biz diploma from the local community college, no less), just remember that award.

    There are places out there that will pay for what you can do.

    Just need to find them…

  2. Friar Says:


    Yeah…I admit I felt a bit of pride when I dug this out of the closet the other day.

    Wow…my peers recognized my work…as being GOOD. I was actually COMMENDED for it.

    Can’t remember the last time this happened. 🙂

    You’re right…I need to remember this, the next time some paper-pusher yells at me because I didn’t fill in the right form the right way.

  3. Brett Legree Says:

    It’s like when one of the lads at work asked me about places I used to work, and I thought back, and then said, “in my very first engineering job, I had more responsibility than I’ve ever had here”.

    Such is the changing landscape of our company, eh?

    Risk aversion = no guts, no glory

  4. Friar Says:

    You know what’s funny, is that with these 3 day courses in Project Management, they give out these “Diplomas” (framed in cheap plastic).

    I just file them somewhere (or chuck them).

    But some people actually put them up in their offices, like they’re legitimate degrees or something.

    Heh. Sure. Whatever rocks your boat. 😉

  5. feefifoto Says:

    Just paste a big one of these over it: 🙂

  6. Friar Says:


    I was thinking of that. Or maybe a smiling face of one the pretty Sunshine Girls in the paper. 😉

  7. XUP Says:

    Hey Brett, that’s funny because I had to dig my degree out of some box not too long ago, too for a job interview. I had no idea they would care about some dusty piece of paper from a hundred years ago. No one has ever asked to see my degree before.

    Friar – This has all the heartwarming drama and pathos of a Hallmark Movie of the Week. You should submit it. John Houseman can play the stern, but lovable sleepy guy; Alan Alda can play you. It’s a sure fire smash hit!

  8. Friar's Mom Says:

    My piece of parchment (BSc) is in on the upper shelf of my bedroom closet. It’s rolled up in its original blue tube. I too had to present it after a job interview. I haven’t looked at it for decades.

    You know what’s so great about the four years it took to earn my degree? I made lifetime friends that I’m still in touch with since 1961. Nine or ten of us get together every fall for a weekend of fun.

  9. Friar Says:

    Yeah, what a touching story.

    This guy made John Houseman look like Mr. Dressup.

    @Friar’s Mom
    Did you know I first met Brett in Grad Skule? I was his T.A!

    Who’d a thunk we’d be hanging out together 15 years later?

  10. Brett Legree Says:

    Yeah, that’s right – 15 years ago, and then some.

    I also met Eyeteaguy at university, back in 1992.

    The paper is just paper, but I’ve got two good friends worth a lot more.

  11. mehculpa Says:

    @ Friar

    You could always hang him on the wall and do what the Catholics do at the end of Lent: hang a purple drapery over the Dead Guy’s head. I mean, frame. Might be good for conversation.

    @ Brett

    You guys were at university in the 1990’s? That’s when I was finishing up my graduate degree.

    ::feels moderately old::

    My diplomas are in a box somewhere.

  12. Brett Legree Says:

    Yep, finished up B.Eng. in ’93 – I don’t think any of us here is particularly old (I’ll be the big 4-0 this October, I suppose) – perhaps it is all relative.

    To the 20-somethings we’re positively ancient, although we could still take them 🙂 old age and treachery heh heh

  13. Friar Says:

    Brett’s a bit of a younger whipper-snapper. I finished my undergrad in 87′. I did my PhD between 92-97. that’s when I met Brett.

    Heh heh. The big Four-OH. Welcome to the club.

    I remember my Dad’s 50th. We though that was such a big deal..he was so OLD.

    Sigh. Now that’s only 5 years awawy for me. 😦

    I still feel like a 20-something who dosent’ know jack squat.

  14. mehculpa Says:

    @ Brett and Friar

    To put it all in perspective, I graduated from high school in 1977. 😐

    I went to UC Davis and graduated in 1985, went to grad school during the era of children, which was all very complicated since we transferred all over the place for the FH’s job. I didn’t finish my thesis until 1997. Still with kids, but sans the FH.


  15. Eyeteaguy Says:

    Geez Friar, let it go man, get over yourself. Carrying crap around this this will kill you. Toss the diploma and the award in the fire. You want to hang on to something that means something? Carry a picture of your mom and dad in your wallet, or better yet in your breast pocket, close to your heart.

    I worked my ass off for my degree, they booted me from my program before I dug in and finished.

    I have no idea where my piece of paper is. I know where my kids are, my wife is, my brothers are, my folks are my cousins are. They are worth more to me that that.

    And as for some old guy yelling at you? Well I was at Splat Creek Science Academy and when I had to present my research, my Advisor tore me apart! So I just chuckled and said “I guess you didnh’t do a good job explaining it to me then”

    I failed the presentation but got 100% for the paper.
    And I haven’t thought of that old crazy Ukranian until just now and I will promptly forget him until the next time I need to haul his crazy ass out of a grave to prove a point *now get back in there*


  16. Friar Says:


    Oh, Geezus. Relax. I’ve gotten over my degree. In fact, if I had my druthers, I wish I coudl RENOUNCE it. Undo the doctorate, because it’s actually a BAD thing to have, when you’re trying to find a job that isn’t R&D related.

    As for the Old Guy. It’s not like I dwell on him every day. I was just going through my closet, and I came across his frowny face on this framed certificate. …it reminded me of an interesting story, I thought I’d write about it.

    If this is too boring for my readers, maybe I should stick to the tried-and-true classics, that everyone in Blogoland seems to enjoy reading.

    Like: “10 Ways to Gaze at your Navel”…or “20 Ways to Crunch Granola and Become Better Person”.

  17. Eyeteaguy Says:

    I’m always amazed how easy it is to get a rise out of you. *snicker, snicker*

    There are nore than 2 ways to gaze at your navel?

    I’m intrigued.


  18. Friar Says:


    If you apply the right type of yoga, there are more than 2 ways to look at your navel.

    So I hear. I’m not into that yoga shit. I’d rather stay unflexible and eat red meat.

  19. Eyeteaguy Says:

    Yoga, yogurt, Yanni, yellow. All things begining with Y sorta suck.

  20. Friar Says:


    YES…they do.

    Except Yoda. I think he’s allright.

  21. Friar,
    You should be very proud of your award in spite of crotchety old Charlie. (I’d say other mean things about him, but I don’t believe in speaking ill of the dead … they can haunt you, you know.)

    Other good Y things: the YMCA, yard work, and yodels (the chocolate ones, not the singers)

  22. Friar Says:

    Yeah..that award is a nice reminder that once upon a time, I worked in an environment where I actually got RECOGNIZED and PRAISED for doing a good job.

    One of these days, I’ll find that feeling again.

    Yodel is a borderline Y-Word. Good for the chocolate. Bad for the singing.

    Another bad Y word is Yoko. That pretty much clinches it.

  23. Well, once you publish Basil, you’ll be CELEBRATED for doing a good job!

    (… and don’t forget Yeast; you can’t have beer without it!)

  24. Friar Says:


    Yes…YEAST!!! Thank God.

    And I’m still plugging away with Basil…he’s getting there.

  25. Patricia Says:

    Wow you really are intelligent and clever…Congratulations and a Charlie Award to boot!

    I was so intelligent and clever at my Ethics certification the instructor said “Why are you not teaching the class?” in front of everyone…and I got the re – cert without taking the exam! Tho…my piece of paper is not framed and looks like it came off the mimeo machine?

    I liked this post! Thank you for sharing the word – I don’t know cartoons so I don’t feel like I can comment on your next post.
    And how fortunate you are to have such good friends – long standing friends…

  26. Friar Says:


    Well, thanks for the compliment. But I’m not always that intelligent and clever. Havent’ been lately, that’s for sure.

    But that award proves that I was…at least ONCE in my life. 😉

  27. Ed Says:

    Hi Guys. I know a lot of nasty stuff can come down from management, but I highly recommend that one lets go the bad and hangs on to the good. I’ve worked a the factory for way too many years and I had some really bad managers. But I had a few really great ones too. A few years ago, one of those managers arranged for me to get a “President’s award of excellence”. Wow! That really felt great. Whenever I’m down, I try to remember that and I feel better quickly.

    By the way, the manager that got me the award, was one of the “bad” managers. Go figure…..

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