Arnold was a bastard. Six weeks, six long grueling weeks we had worked on the pitch. A pitch which could guarantee a whole year’s worth of flowing revenue. Now come pitch day, Arnold, that bastard, was nowhere to be seen and attempts to get him on the phone went unanswered.
Everything was set up and ready to go but we needed Arnold, our closer. We couldn’t keep the clients waiting so come crunch time it was decided that I would do the presentation. I would have to go in front of seven to executives and pitch a multimillion shilling project.
To say that I was ill prepared would be putting it mildly. I had watched Arnold rehearse the pitch numerous times and had it more or less memorized so I was able to convince myself that I could pull it off.
I entered the boardroom and stood up there, in front of those seven serious, non-blinking judging faces. Those fourteen piercing eyes which between them had seen thousands of presentations. I set up the projector, uploaded the presentation, made a quick introduction and got started.
Then immediately, something strange began to happen. My words, words which I had spoken thousands of time before, started to get lost in my throat. They started to disappear. I would start on a word but once I got to its middle, I would swallow it and only a light croaking sound would come out.
I panicked and I pretended my throat was dry. There was a pitcher of water and glass by the window of the boardroom. I walked over and poured myself a glass. I drank the water slowly. Every second spent thinking about what I was going to do. Wishing that at any moment, Arnold, that bastard, would walk in through the door and save me.
I saw the bottom of the glass and put it down. I had to walk five steps back to the front of the panel and in those five steps, I had to come up with a plan.
First step, I could bolt out of the room. Second step, try to stall for time. Third step, feign an ailment. Fourth step, back to fleeing. Five steps, I had nothing.
I needed to relax so I inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly, trying not to think of the impatient executive eyes looking at me. There was no escaping the situation so I decided to power through the presentation.
I talked as fast as I could. I ignored all the word bumps I encountered and just continued talking. I kept my eyes off the panel and on the slides on the screen. One after the other they went by, I explained as much as I could as fast as I could and managed to get to the end.
Then I turned my head back to the panel. Silence. My heart sank. I could see it in their eyes. I could feel it in the air. It was all around the room, you could almost choke from it. The undeniable stench of failure.
Arnold, you bastard.