Wednesday, June 6, 2012

What A Day!

I should be in bed by now. I have had a very busy and eventful day – probably one of the most eventful days in the year 2012. Unfortunately’ sleep has refused to come. I have been tossing up and down my bed trying to rest, but my mind is full of thoughts and gratitude.

The day didn’t really start the way I had planned it. I am in Sun City, South Africa, as a guest speaker in one of the sessions of the 34th Annual convention of the South African Production and Inventory Control Society (SAPICS). I was scheduled to speak on this day (now yesterday) and was really looking forward to it. So far, the conference had produced some great speakers from several parts of Africa, and beyond. So, to be honest, I just wanted to do my best, have fun and learn from the experience as an international speaker. Throughout the night however, I couldn’t sleep. Not because I was thinking about my presentation, but my health. I had not been feeling too well, been battling with it for some days now, and even saw a Dr before leaving Nigeria. I was given a go ahead to travel after taking some analgesic. However, on this day, the analgesic didn’t quite work for me. The state of my health was so serious that I became really worried – about my general well-being and about the fact that I wouldn’t be able to make my presentation. In my desperation, I rang up the Hotel Conceive at 3.00a.m in the morning, and they arranged for me to get to the Resort’s Clinic. The nurse on duty took my vitals and I became more worried when she asked if I was hypertensive. I had never been. That morning however, my BP was at 140/100. Anyway, I saw a Dr, who told me what was wrong (nothing serious, thank God) and gave me injections to relieve the pain for a while. The plan was to be able to deliver my presentation, after which I would go on full medication. It sounded okay to me, and I felt pretty better afterwards. As I was driven back to the hotel at about 5p.m, I kept wondering how not so well the day had started. “Would this affect my presentation in any way”, I asked myself. “Lord, please help me”, I muttered severally.

After the “bad” start to the day, I got set for the rest of the day and was really in high Spirit to deliver my presentation. I ran through the slides again and felt everything was okay. I convinced myself that I had done my best, under the current circumstances. Little did I know that the day was loaded with greater surprises.
I was introduced upstage at 10.50 a.m to give a presentation on Work Life Balance. The hall was almost full to capacity. As usual, my heart did a double summersault when I was given the stage but I soon found my footing and did my thing. The responses in the room were overwhelming! People were laughing, clapping, nodding, and urging me to go on. From a professional standpoint, I had perhaps the best 50 minutes presentation I had ever given. To be honest, I was pleasantly surprised myself. The way the points I raised were received was overwhelming. As soon as I finished the session, several people were milling around to have a handshake and to tell me how helpful the session had been to them. I must have shaken over a 100 hands, all from different parts of Africa and beyond. I had a follow up session (called interaction with the Guest Speaker) a couple of minutes later and the room was completely full! People were asking me all manners of questions, and somehow, I got the right inspiration to answer. I felt like a real professional (though I am not quite. I would be stupid to take any credit. I know who the “doer” is). We spent another 30 minutes in that room sharing ideas and robbing minds. After the session, I then started getting questions like “ How ‘cheap’ is it to bring you back to SA to share this topic with our management staff”; “ Are you available to share this to a greater audience”; “ Would you be back to the Conference next year”; and many more. At this point, I was really overwhelmed. For the next several hours, as I walked down the conference halls, I had to shake a hand almost every 5 mins – people stopping me to tell me how great they felt the presentation was. Infact, a couple of people I met already shared with me their actions plans for a better balance in their lives. Little did I realize that the day had just begun!

The rest of the afternoon went well. I retired to my room to soak it in and to have a nap. I then strolled around Sun City with my friend and colleague Olajide Adetunji, to take in the beautiful scenery. Awesome place I would say. I wish I could meet the people who designed and built the place. I would recommend it as a vacation spot for anyone (they didn’t pay me to do this….lol). Then, I prepared for the dinner and gala night which was to start at 7.30p.m. While in the lobby taking drinks before the commencement of the dinner, I got several other handshakes and comments about my presentation. Apparently, word had gone round that a certain young man from Nigeria blew off the roof with his presentation. For like 1 hr, I keep shaking hands and talking to people about the presentation. I was planned to sit on the same table with Rueben, Clive, Collin, Susan, Barry and Jide (All but Jide are members of the Board of Directors for SAPICS). Just before the formal opening of the dinner, Collin (who was at my session) walked up to me and gave me a great handshake. He looked into my eyes and said “Temitope, I thought you did an awesome job there today. I have a feeling your presentation would win the prize for the best presentation at the Conference this year. I think you are running head to head with Professor Lumumba (who got a standing ovation after his presentation, which I happened to attend) but I think you would win it. And you deserve to”. He further explained to me how my presentation barely made it to the conference in the 1st place. According to him “We took a big gamble on your presentation and it paid off big time!” I understood him clearly. This was a supply chain conference where people were talking a lot of technical stuffs on global trends in supply chain around the world. My Paper was on something a little bit different. I was trying to show the relationship between a balanced work life, and productivity of the employees. So, it wasn’t a surprise that the paper was almost dropped. The surprise was – how come a paper /presentation that barely made it to the conference, is not being reckoned with as one of the best papers presented at the Conference?

At this point, I felt really good. Honestly, I didn’t expect to win the best presentation of the conference – not in my wildest dream! I mean, this was my 1st international speaking opportunity (professionally), and I was speaking alongside very experienced people. About 50% of them were international guest speakers. So, to even be nominated for the best paper for me, was so satisfying! As soon as the dinner started, I took my mind off the presentation and the award, and focused on building relationships. My table and the tables around were filled with the captains of industries in SAPICS and international guest speakers. I try always to get the best from such opportunities, you know. Then came the greatest surprise of the day! “Ladies and gentlemen”, the diner host declared, “we have several awards to hand out tonight and we better get started”. He went on to call up stage the winners of the various awards, amidst claps and aplomb. “Now, the award for the most innovative presentation for the 34th Annual SAPICS Conference goes to ………Temitope Ogunfayo”. I honestly thought I didn’t hear right. The clap around the room was deafening! As I walked upstage to receive the award, I felt like crying. I really did. I mean, I almost didn’t make this opportunity. I got the award and took a few photographs with the presenter and was going back to my seat when I heard the host say “Temitope, I advise that you still stay on the stage as you have one more award to receive. The Paper you submitted as been adjudged as the Best Paper from a Practitioner for the 34th Annual award of the SAPICS Conference”. My God! I couldn’t believe it! At this time, many people were already on their feet applauding! I was dumbfounded to say the least. I mean, it’s my 1st conference. I felt I did a good job. But to get 2 awards in one night, amidst other international speakers? No! As I walked to the microphone to give my acceptance speech, I was lost for words. I remember a discussion my wife and I had shortly before I travelled, where she reminded me of a list I wrote, of things I wanted to do before I was 40. I finally managed to get my voice. “On my 33rd birthday, I wrote down a list of 33 things to do before I become 40. One of the things on that list was to speak at an international conference. Today, I ticked off this item on that list. Never in my wildest imagination was I expecting to get these 2 awards in 1 night. I came here to present on a topic I am passionate about. I came here to have fun. I am going back with these 2 awards. Thank you to all of you for nominating me. Thank you”. Amidst another round of applause, I went to back to my seat, and the paparazzi took over (lol). For the next half an hour, I was posing for photographs with these awards in my hand and with several people. Lots of people that met me on the way kept saying “I knew you were going to get that. That was awesome”. Within 30 mins, I had received over 5 invitations to present this paper in other places, including the APICS Conference (the American body of SAPICS)! Amazing, I would say.

Now, you can understand why I have not been able to sleep. I am humbled with these awards. To state the facts, I always give my best whenever I am presented with an opportunity to speak, but today was far beyond me! I would be foolish to take the credit – very foolish. My father took the little in my hand and turned it out to something really great – something I can’t still comprehend. There is no one else that deserved the awards better than him. He is the doer! I dedicate these 2 awards to my Lord and Master, who always gives me the tongue of the learned, to speak words due in season. I dedicate it also to my lovely and amiable wife, with whom I have practiced most of the principles that I thought during the session.

In my next blog, I would be sharing with you very important lessons from this trip, and my experience generally. Until then, remember “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him

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