Somewhere in the bank you work for is a team of people who start work at 11pm and work ten hour shifts throughout the night to get your presentation done. You may not know them. You may not respect them, but your ability to do your job well depends upon them.
You will encounter them at the ‘Front Desk’ to your graphics department. This is the desk at which you drop in your work to be formatted, before you go home to bed. It is also the desk at which the graphics operators - who will work all night to format your work, must queue to get their time sheets signed at the end of their shifts.
When you arrive at the front desk, ready with your presentation to be formatted, you will be competing against every other team in the investment bank. I’ve seen queues that have stretched back to the elevators. So, how important is your particular presentation really? Of course, you can lie and say that it’s the final draft that needs to be on a plane at 5:30 AM (with 2 hours for production). But the graphics team isn’t stupid.
The shift leaders will assess your truthfulness by looking at the state of your work and amount of revisions logged in our system. You may lie successfully once or twice. After that, you will be the boy who cried wolf, and you know what happened to him…
It’s unlikely that you’d ever want to work as a graphics operator in an investment bank – or even as a shift manager. It’s unlikely you’ll want your career to have anything to do with the presentations centre.
So, what do you need to know?
1. If you’re dealing with the presentation team, have some understanding
For you, this is a make-or-break deal.
But we’ve heard it all before. Everything is an “emergency,” everyone wants to go to the top of the pile. There’s always a fire, but we’re the only hose in town.
Be realistic, and you will get realistic results. Be unreasonable and demanding, and the shift leader will remember you – but not in a good way.
One banker was notorious for bringing badly-prepared work in at 6:30 AM on Sunday mornings, when we had already been there since midnight.
After giving incomprehensible instructions in an aggressive tone, he went back to his desk and then called every 10 minutes with increasing levels of abusive language. His work never got started before the morning shift had their first coffee at 8:30 AM – not even if it was “mission-critical.”
2. Get some perspective
It’s true – sometimes you really are not the one at fault. It’s true, but so what?
You’ll never be successful long-term unless you can learn to forgive and forget. So someone screwed up your presentation or didn’t quite get your instructions right… has a nuclear weapon exploded? Did it result in someone’s death?
We’re dealing with paperwork here, not life-or-death problems.
If you want to get the most out of the presentation team, do the following:
1. Prepare Well
Try to imagine what the job looks like from our side, and keep explanations on a need-to-know basis.
If you absolutely must submit handwritten notes, write as clearly as you can – I once worked on an emergency presentation from New York, from the desk of the very Chairman of the Most Important Bank in the Universe himself (let’s call him Harry), and many of his handwritten figures were so smudged that I had to make a less-than-educated guess.
2. Act Professionally
The worst service I ever gave anyone was during my time at the Second Most Important Bank in the Universe, where we had a system of rotating shift leaders, including myself – this was a great policy which enhanced productivity and reduced internal backstabbing, so naturally it was swiftly discontinued.
This guy’s mistake was to ask me “for a favour” in what he clearly thought was an irresistibly flirtatious tone – I was supposed to let him jump the queue, give him dispensation to use his own styles (a total no-no) and pander to his crudely expressed ideas of being “a very special man.”
He also told me he never forgot a lady’s name, ordered me to smile, and proceeded to call me “Nora.”
I put him at the bottom of the queue and forced him to stay until 3 AM (shouting abuse at me), at which point he received a well-executed and triple-checked document observing every last detail of our house style. My manager dropped his subsequent complaint in the waste bin – and that guy was an international VP.
Yes, you read that correctly: a mid-level banker actually acted like this, just in case you thought this behaviour was only limited to newly minted analysts and associates.
3. Know Your Place
A good presentation shift leader is more valuable to the Bank than a first-year analyst. Deal with it.
And really, until you yourself start bringing in clients and/or generating revenue directly, a good shift leader will continue to be more valuable than you for many years.
Even if their paycheck and place in the “official” hierarchy don’t reflect it.
Nyla Nox has been working in the London presentation centers of several of the Most Important Banks in the Universe for seven years. Unlike most of her colleagues, she has never been fired. This is a follow-up to an article that we published last year and a summary of a much longer version that appeared on the website Mergers and Inquisitions. Nyla Nox did not write the opening paragraphs [these were our summary of her longer piece] but she did write the numbered points below them.