So it’s done. I had my promotion panel interview yesterday. It went great, apart from one little tiny detail – I went over time. Pretty much the one hard-and-fast rule you’re given, and I broke it. Granted, it was really close – I was partway through my final slide – but it leaves a bitter taste to have come so close to getting through the part I was most worried about.

I know why I ran over. In one of my more content-heavy slides I stumbled a bit with some last minute suggested additions, adding a little too much detail off-the-cuff as I hadn’t practiced these points as much as the rest. Those few seconds made all of the difference, and while I tried to mask the dissappointment of being stopped as quickly as I could before going into the Q&A, I’m sure there would have been a split-second where my body language or facial expression gave it away, if any of the panel were looking at my camera feed and not the slide deck.

The Q&A part was fine. It was a little bit of a blur due to trying to recover, but I had the overall impression it was easier than I expected, and shorter. I received one question relating to my last slide which basically let me finish off what I would have said, and a couple of questions around Agile working practices and specifically on leading Agile teams, which required more longform answers… but overall I came out of the Q&A feeling much more confident again.

So that was it. If I had met the 15 minute criteria I’d be feeling very sure that I’d been successful. As it is, I just have to wait until I get the feedback and ultimate decision to find out how much that worked against me. That will be some time in late March/early April. I’m hopeful that everything else was above and beyond what they expected me to deliver, but that’s not going to make the wait any easier!

I have a love-hate relationship with presenting. I feel I’m fair-to-decent at delivering an ad-libbed presentation backed up by a loosely structured slide deck. I can project a decent amount of confidence even though I’m nervous and hate being the centre of attention, and can talk at length if I can control the timing of the presentation.

Unfortunately, this is one of those times where the timing is out of my hands and the format is fairly set. As I mentioned, I have a strict 15 minute limit, and there’s also a template I need to start from – although there is creative freedom allowed within the parameters of the template. Keeping to the time limit remains my biggest hurdle. I have a lot I need to cover, and nerves tend to make me throw in little extra bits of information as I’m talking. Because I know this I have spent a lot of time practicing my delivery since my first disasterous attempt.

As well as having multiple review + feedback sessions with colleagues, I’ve basically spent every spare minute repeating the script over and over – both in my head and out loud. I’m still struggling to hit the 15 minute mark, but I’m really, really, close. I’ve come in under time in a few practice runs so it seems to depend on how much detail I give to just one or two areas of the slide deck. My thinking is that if I can basically memorise a version which comes in under time, and stick to only that in the real thing, then I should be OK.

As far as the slides go, these are now set. I’ve had some great feedback on the visuals, which is a nice boost. The deck needs to be sent off to the panel by the end of today, so there’s no more time to make any substantive changes – probably for the best! I won’t be able to post the full deck, but I will leave you with a small extract from the “about me” slide:

a screenshot from my presentation, showing white, bullet-pointed text, on a red gradient background. Point one reads 'Brain haemorrhage + stroke survivor', point two readds 'Interested in the intersections of privacy, ethics, and technology', point three reads 'Unrepentant Warhammer nerd'.
A snippet from my draft presentation

I had my first practice run of my promotion presentation with a work colleague today, and it was nothing short of a disaster.

I arrived to the meeting already flustered. The current sprint is hard going, things have been going wrong, and I had been fire-fighting all morning. I also hadn’t had any opportunity to practice my slides on my own. I had a rough idea of what I wanted to say, but no idea of the timings or anything.

Several times I just lost my train of thought, had to stop, then restart the presentation. When I did finally manage to get off of the first slide, I’d talked for over half of my allotted 15 minutes. In the end I felt like I was wasting my colleague’s time, so I apologised for being so ill prepared and ended the session early so as to not waste any more. I was embarrassed, annoyed at myself, and even more flustered than when I started. Thankfully my colleague offered to “reschedule” our session to a later date, when hopefully I’ll be in a better mindset.

Must do better.