I Came. I Saw. I Walked Out: An Anonymous Letter From a Frustrated Audience Member

August 31, 2016

A few months ago, Brian called out to the world and asked people to stop tolerating the time-sucks that are selfish, ill-prepared business presentations. He called it “The Walk Out.” Enough—he said—enough of the self-absorbed, meaningless, jargon-blasted fireside chats, lunch-and-learn sessions and keynote presentations that have become all too familiar in business today.

Then came an email from someone who had read the piece and had a story to share. The revolution had begun, it seemed. They wish to remain anonymous, but felt compelled to share their story below. Enjoy!

I don’t think of myself as a revolutionist. I’m a wallflower kind of gal. And “The Walk Out”? It’s not me. It would make the speaker feel sad, and then I would feel sad that I made someone sad; too much sadness!

But I did it. I did “The Walk Out.”  

Recently, I attended a fireside chat with the founders of one of the fastest growing companies in healthcare. On a Thursday night (so close to FriYAY), after a long work week, I opted into an after-work event and convinced my fiancé to join. I went because I usually really enjoy fireside chats, presentations, speeches, you name it—I leave refreshed, inspired, and with a new sense of drive. I think to myself: “I want to be you!”, “I can do it!”

My fiancé and I settled into the back of the room, ignoring the late afternoon hunger pangs to listen to these young, accomplished leaders. Maybe I was projecting my excitement, but I thought there was a buzzing energy in the room. However as the interviewer moved through the questions with the founders, I faded, opened Pokémon Go, and watched time move slowly.

Some of their answers felt disingenuous and practiced, like a glossy marketing piece that I swear I read in news articles and PR pieces already. Other answers were so long-winded and unfocused that I forgot the question, and when he finally got to the answer, I thought, “We’re still on that question?” And the final straw: the #humblebrag. So much humblebragging. And I get it. You’re so young! You’re incredibly successful! But come on, did you really need to name drop Elon Musk, Facebook, and Sequoia into that answer? So, we left.

We walked out.

As we walked home, I felt sad that I wasted my fiancé’s time (plus he was so hungry!). I also felt the need to defend my industry, the company, and the event. “They’re not all like this,” I told him.

Like I said before, I don’t consider myself a revolutionist, but I’m pretty fed up. I don’t want to leave failed presentations to preserve my valuable time or to be productive. I just want some honesty from presenters.

So, to the founders who spoke on that ill-fated Thursday night:

I left a good opportunity at a large company and began working for a start-up out of an incubator, and I’m more jaded and disillusioned than I was in corporate America. I’m frustrated that we tend to forget the reason why we start these companies, only to replace it with this “belief” that we have to find the easiest and fastest way to monetize an idea, get a VC’s attention, or be the next unicorn. And you’re not helping.

So when your fireside chat consists of stories of ambitions unrestrained by humility, successes with minimal glimpses into failures, and so many rainbows, I’m over it. I would rather be doing anything else than listening to you enable the fantasy of Silicon Valley.


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