Google at the CCAT Dinner

Google is the power in the internet right now. Issues with censorship aside (and their suddenly lacklustre results in the stock market — the revaluation is long overdue), Google still remains the top search engine and one of the best ways to engage in online marketing.

Which is the primary reason why when Google comes to town, you make an effort to drop by.

The CCAT — the Calgary Council for Advanced Technology — conducts regular meetings. What exactly this group does, I’m not entirely sure. But they do seem to arrange for an interesting networking opportunity.

Originally, I wasn’t really interested. Jim sort of goaded me into it, though. Aside from the fact that it was Google, it seemed like getting an entire table of us (eight, in total) would be possible … but only if I went. I figured, if nothing else, a change to see what else Google had up their sleeves might be something worth seeing.

The night started off at the Telus Convention Centre (lower level of the Glenbow Museum, to be specific), in what I can only describe as the largest networking scene I’ve yet seen in Calgary. I was hardly a shining example, focusing mostly with Rob (a former co-worker), Mark (from the Green Party of Canada), and a guy who specialized in PDA solutions. Hugh (whose name was recorded as “High”) scored about at least a dozen cards in the time we were there. There’s a man I need to learn a lot more from when it comes to meeting new people!

Table 20 was just us: Dave, Ryan, Allard, Nichole, Chantelle, Jim, Hugh, and myself. Ryan and I ended up with our backs to the stage, where Wendy Muller of Google would speak later on. Until then it was a variety of speakers from around the Calgary community. The only good one (I think) was the CEO of West Canadian, George Brookman. He had a calm, easy demeanour (and apparently knew most of the people in the room — including the mayor) and leapt into a speech that sounded completely off-the-cuff, and yet completely practiced.

Sadly, he would remain the best speaker of the night. The president of the CCAT read his script, and didn’t sound at all at ease in front of the room. Normally, the uneasiness should pass in a couple of minutes (or so I’ve read). Normally.

The keynote was Wendy Muller, the VP of Marketing for Google Canada. She’s been in the marketing industry for a couple of decades and seems to know her stuff. A couple of things were clear, however, during the course of her speech. First, as much as others look to Wendy to be the “voice” of Google Canada, Wendy doesn’t understand her field.

She’s been at Google for four years. But she doesn’t get the point. She doesn’t get the technology. She’s an old-school marketer. She knows the way things used to be done. The new way still seems to escape her, however. The presentation was short, and the Q&A period even shorter. Questions were often specific, but Wendy either hasn’t learned how to divert the answer (the two most common responses were “no comment” owing to specific internal situations; or a very long-winded answer, signifying nothing, ending with “does that answer your question?”).

And like the president who introduced her, she read her presentation, too. I’m no speaking guru, but even I know that you should practice your presentation. Make it sound good. Go over it again and again and again until you know it so well that you don’t need your notes. You should only glance at the presentation to make sure you’re covering all the points that are there. If you’re reading the points in their entirety rather than using them as a summary … might as well email the bugger to everyone on the list and save them the hour.

Well, the meal was pretty good. So perhaps it was ultimately worth it. Even if I didn’t win the iPod up for grabs.

I think Wendy needs to attend one of the major Search Engine Strategy conferences, and get to see how others present from her company. There’s a wad of Googlers who are lower-rung than her, and present a lot better. Wendy didn’t really say anything that I didn’t already know to some extent (clarification on statistics notwithstanding). And I doubt that I’m the only one thinking that.