Adventurous trip, marred by the fact I missed the outgoing flight due to an overrunning meeting to finish off with a renewed, scary acquaintance with aerosinusitis (if you don’t know what it is, call yourself fortunate and move on).
So all the trouble was in the trips, because – contrary to gloom-and-doom media reports of “Ukraine on the edge of the abyss” – absolutely nothing out of the ordinary happened during my stay.
The Russia / Ukraine conundrum
To a foreigner eye the Russo-Ukrainian situation has settled into an uneasy balance. After all, the Crimea annexation happened in March, 2014, a time when the Russian economy, despite the global recession, was still growing at a 1.4% clip thanks to $100+/barrel oil.
Eighteen months later, the combo blow of sweeping sanctions and sub-$50 oil (entirely driven by the american shale sledgehammer) have Russia in a -1.5% GDP tailspin.
Eighteen months ago, Putin had the world believe that nothing could stop Russia if it set its mind to. Today Ukrainians are probably more in a positive mood than Russians.
However, much still is to be done in Ukraine: the first time it tried to break free of the Soviet Union, in 1941, it chose the wrong ally in Nazi Germany, a mistake which still haunts the reputation of the Ukrainian people more than they realise, but this time (1991) it firmly turned to the EU as a role model: never heard so many times people speak about “upholding European values” as in these two days in Kyiv.
The politicians I met here seem to have what it takes (business background, global perspective and experience) to reform a state organization probably still firmly rooted in Soviet-era bureaucratic practices, bring about a system of check and balances which to this date does not exist, while fighting the pressure of oligarchs. A tough job, if I ever saw one!
..went technically bad. Not just a minor glitch: the remote did not work well (too far) and the technicians were not prepared to manually advance the slides when I asked them to; and when they finally did, they would not stop and had to go back. Worse than it ever happened to me in many years of public speaking.
At the root of the problem is the still far-from-universal acceptance of Macs by the people who organise the technical side of conferences.
Everything is boned down to the lowest common denominator of boring text slides shown on Powerpoint, the single biggest crime against humanity ever performed by Microsoft, but I refuse to show a presentation that looks like something put together in the 80’s.
I usually solve this by asking them to use my computer, even though it often means giving up HD (unbelievable how many projectors still exist that do not have HDMI connectors). This time however I didn’t, trusting the fact that the presentation consisted mainly of videos.
This was a mistake, even though in the end the videos saved the day, because they allowed the audience to generously follow my remarks even while I was fighting with the capricious remote.
To be true, however, I rarely received so many compliments after a presentation so, to partly make up for the lousy performance, I decided to make a movie of it (as it was supposed to be) and post it here: who knows, some in the audience may still enjoy it in retrospect.