Originally published on February 25th, 2014.
Being in the aviation industry it seems I spend way too much time at conferences, seminars, forums, etc., all in an attempt to learn the latest and greatest on airport development. To keep from falling asleep in hard chairs and stuffy rooms I look for interesting humor in the proposed presenters. They don’t consider themselves humorous, but then they are not on the receiving end of their subject.
Please tell me why PowerPoint presentations are full of too much text and minuscule fonts that make your eyes water? Why do speakers often say, “Now while I know this slide is hard to read let me explain it?” If you need to explain it why put it up?
At a recent Airport Planning Design & Construction Symposium I elected to venture into a session called, “Young Professionals Innovation Competition.” God knows we need young professionals in the industry as most of us are older than dirt and have been involved in nearly every major new airport development in the last three decades. However, when I hear the words “young” and “innovation” used in the same sentence I see technology double talk all over the performance. I was not disappointed; confused yes, but not surprised.
Three bright brained late twenty something wonders were up on the podium ready to woo us with their expertise and brilliance on the social media world… Facebook, Twitter, Apps and the rest of the whiz bang of the technology world. I must admit that it is impressive how youth that are less than 10 years out of college, and have minimal aviation knowledge, have become all knowing. I’m sure not one of these guys even had a pilot’s license (not that the skill of flying a plane is necessary to design and build an airport). We see that regularly when we have to go to catch a delayed flight in a 20th Century terminal.
The issue is what do young titans really know? It is impossible to translate because when they get in that IT mode their mouth runs faster than a Texas roadrunner on a dusty desert, their vocabulary is a scoured foreign language of unidentified origin.
The audience is made up primarily of over 55 year old gray hairs that have been dealing with airport and aviation issues longer than these kids have been on earth. Most of us came to the session thinking “I’m open to learning something here (if I can just understand what is being said).” Maybe their hearing aids are turned down, or they haven’t admitted they need them, but this group looks like a herd of deer staring into headlights.
After an exhausting hour of more types of innovative dialect the session is opened up for questions and answers. A lady who is a bit over 70, still running a successful runway electrical design company, spoke up. “My mind cannot compute all your ideas because your mouth runs too fast.” It’s true, they had given us about 500 pounds of information in 60 minutes, but it appeared difficult for them to provide a distinct cohesive thought. After several more questions from the audience I finally stood up.
The moderator looked my way and said, “Now we will have a generational question.” If I hadn't known her since she was a kid in diapers I would have probably been offended. Looking at the three young men I asked, “Could you please dumb down your topic so that those of us in the room that just happen to run airports, consult to airports, and build them understand?”
The response was instant and poignant. It immediately sat me back in my chair and spun by head around. “Lady, if you hate change you are going to hate being irrelevant!” Touché