Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Return to Lloyds

The Lutine Bell at Lloyds
Or, 'at least this time I didn't look like an overweight Pocahontas though I did see the 1907 Loss Book...'

The reason I visited Lloyds before (see Fish out of Water) was in preparation for an event - an event which took place last night. Our MD speaks at these high falutin' events for women's development (the whole idea is we get names for our database, of course!) and I have to say it was a terrific success.

My previous observations on the Lloyds building were not that complimentary, but - I have to say - the place grew on me. We were in the Old Library downstairs - oak panels, carvings, and a most severe looking Founder of Lloyds peering at us from the alcove, in his preserved, oil-painted state. We had around 100 young women (and three men too) from the Insurance industry ready to listen to the 'great and the good'. The content was pitched just right for the audience and my boss made a superb interview/host/facilitator. And how she handled the support staff too (yes, there were a few problems of course!) was admirable.

But me - I'd set the whole thing up and I must confess I'd missed a trick or two. Drinks on arrival? For some reason I had it firmly in my head we'd decided against it. So when my boss asked for welcoming drinks, I said no, we hand't arranged it. But, after three askings (and she used my colleague to ask me - perhaps my unusual stubborness was more than a little out of character so I wasn't in a very receptive mood) I thought 'well, it's what she wants, it makes sense, do it!'. And I got the drinks sorted (just in time) and the guests were happy and tra la laa... it all went swimmingly.

Mind you - not completely. PA. Dread PA. 'Dave' tested everything for me first off - four lapel mics, three hand-helds. Four clip ons for the panel, hand held for the host (my boss) and two for questions from the floor. All worked fine. Comes to wiring up the panel and zero, zilch! One of the lapel mics went on strike. "I always do this" the speaker said. Aha! One of those people who carry their own electrical field round, specifically to flummox sound engineers and hapless marketing managers who think they can handle these things! One speaker used a hand-held.

My boss was instructed exactly how far to hold the mic from her mouth - 'boob height' she said, tucking her arm neatly below one side and maintaining perfect distance for optimum sound. However, as soon as she was up and talking (with a room full of people), that went out the window. She held the mic right near her mouth - and subsequently her volume was somewhat more prominent than the rest of the panel. Oh well!

After the discussion (great stuff about women being successful in insurance - it is possible!) there was the 'networking' bit. Now, in a room full of women from banking and finance, I have one major disadvantage. I know sod all about banking and finance! But hey ho - I was there to work, not to enjoy myself. I met one lady from a Middle Eastern bank and we chatted for quite a while. "Shame we can't see the trading floor..." she mentioned, as we talked with one of the Lloyds hosts.

Well, you got it! She and I got a sneak visit (no way they could take all the rest of the visitors up two flights of escalators and un-guided into the trading area). We saw the Lutine Bell, the Loss book for 2007 (they still write in it using quill and ink!) and the Loss book for 1907. They always have the book from 100 years ago next to the current year. They'd had an open day the previous afternoon and had the Titanic Register out (but that was locked back in some vault somewhere).

That's when I thought actually, this building ain't so bad. Despite looking like tin cans from the outside, the high interior and the open plan trading floor was actually quite restful. During the day a hive of activity, I'm sure, but despite the lights (everywhere - can you imagine trying to balance the environment in a building like that with a varying populace of anything form 600 to 2,000 people inside at any one time?) it was a welcoming, comfortable place of work.

I like these insights into places you may not ordinarily see. I like to see them when they are resting, as well as when they are busy. I liked talking to the catering manager (who had worked there for 13 years) and hearing about the Adam Room and the history (which he knew intimately) of the buildings. I enjoyed meeting different people, though I had virtually nothing in common with any of them other than our presence at this event.

The journey home (arrived by train) was with a colleague. She talked, I listened; I talked, she listened. We are very different people but we work well together. We have very different lives, but an understanding. At half past ten in the evening I got home. Tired, not exactly happy (why had I been so bloody stubborn about the drinks at the start of the evening?), but certainly pleased with the outcome of the event.

Next? Well, I probably won't be running the next event. My new 'Buzz Lightyear' colleague will be responsible(she's Buzz, I'm Woody). I will miss the visits to unusual places (for me) and meeting some intersting people, but not the hassle of - no matter how hard I try - never ever quite getting it right for my boss.
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