Sunday, February 07, 2010

Well Hello, Mr President

Where do I start? Five days in Amsterdam with work certainly take it out of a girl. Especially when each day starts at 8 am and ends at midnight when you fall through the door of your hotel. And then have to check your daily 120 emails (average). Anyway, I was there for a global client meeting which meant that representatives from about 15 of our offices from all around the world were gathered in one place. Fascinating. No wonder that I gravitated towards our New York/Latin America/Brazil/Singapore offices (hello international transfer?!) but it was equally interesting meeting my French, Italian, Russian, British and Dutch counterparts.

Stating the obvious here but: Amsterdam is freezing. I mean, really freezing. Like, minus 10. Yep. Not great for the Dubai girl who rocked up hideously ill-equipped for such weather in a fashion jacket (darling little cropped sleeve mac – looks great but serves no purpose). I’d figured that because most of our time was going to be spent in offices and in transit, I’d be ok. How wrong I was. Freezing fog and heaps of snow meant a thoroughly uncomfortable trip. I lost count of how many times my eyes met with those from warmer climes and rolled back in my head as we gritted our teeth and thought about bikinis next weekend.

It was a good trip – and one of the highlights was meeting Barack Obama’s chief communications advisors. Yes, really. He runs a specialized political communications in Washington (natch) and as part of the event was called in to talk to us about how running a presidential election can translate to communications in business. He was an utterly fascinating chap, with bags of presence, and he held a room of 100 people in the palm of his hand as he regaled us with the serious stuff (strategy, messages) and then more fun stuff (Sarah Palin. Hilary Clinton).

He took questions at the end before joining us for dinner. This being a somewhat serious event, the questions were suitably high-brow: strategy, audience/message dissection etc etc. Our speaker, being a heartily engaging fun chap, stopped us after ten minutes or so. “What’s wrong with you guys?” he asked. “People normally ask me: what was Air Force One like? What does he eat. You’re all so serious – where are the fun questions??” Cue peals of laughter.

So you don’t need me to tell you what happened next time the roving mike came in my direction….we asked those questions, and more. Here’s a flavour of them:

Q: What’s Air Force One like?
A: very, very nice.

Q: What does he eat?
A: He’s ridiculously healthy and eats very well. In addition, it doesn’t matter how late he’s been working or how hard, he always exercises in the morning.

Q: Are he and Michelle really in love?
A: Yes, sickeningly so. It was his idea/suggestion to have Beyonce sing ‘At Last’ at the inauguration ceremony. One, two, three: aaah!

Q: Did he ever lose his temper?
A: On occasion, yes. But the main cause of his frustration was always his schedule – he hated being apart from Michelle and the girls.

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