Yesterday was my project's 2008 showcase day, to which we invited anyone who's interested (mostly senior people from industry, and sponsors) in order to show them that we haven't been wasting our funding for the past two years. I would have been dreading this for months, except that I was far too busy panicking about other deadlines to panic about this one in particular for more than a couple of days in total. This also meant that I started the day woefully unprepared and expecting everything to go horribly wrong, and also got little more than two hours' sleep the night before.
My personal contribution to the day (other than a bit of local organisation due to it being held in the building in which I work — or rather disorganisation, since I accidentally abandoned the group from UCL in that building on Thursday whilst I went to the pub since I thought they had already gone home) was a 15-minute talk on my work, followed by a 15-minute demo (repeated four times to different groups of attendees) of my prototype implementation.
The order of the first few talks was:
- The Chair of the School of Technology and Head of Photonics Research, University of Cambridge
- The Vice-president (R&D) of O2 / Telefonica Europe
- The Head of the Ultra-fast Photonics and Optical Networks Group, UCL
- The Chair in Communication Networks and Systems and Director of the Institute of Integrated Information Systems, University of Leeds
- Me, with my BA
So, no pressure or anything!
I've never enjoyed public speaking. The last time I spoke to a group of over 20 people (in the very same room as my talk yesterday, ominously), the stress caused me to become ill for a week. However, this time my talk went surprisingly well; I was congratulated afterwards as presenting one of the most interesting of the talks. Having someone senior in a company involved in the project exclaim "Wow, this is amazing!" half way through was certainly a confidence booster. :-) (And it made my project leader like me, as this exclamation was made within earshot of someone senior in the research council sponsoring us!) I got several people asking interesting questions and just one doubting my justification (unsurprising, perhaps, as the doubter was representing a company which has committed itself to a massive deployment of MPLS, a technology which I imply has major problems).
The demo also went surprisingly well, considering that when I had set it up the previous evening I realised as I was plugging in the monitor that I had forgotten to write any code to display useful data on said monitor. The display code ended up being a combination of Python and standard UNIX utilities, hacked together in 15 minutes, but which nevertheless displayed the information needed (the internal state databases of three prototype switches).
By far the best achievement of the day, however, was observing that the serious-looking fliers distributed to attendees listed one of the major outcomes of our project as "MOOSE". :-)
(Edited post hoc because what I wrote on returning from the showcase day was not entirely coherent...)