Over the past week, we have been discussing what the WOW moment of our presentation is. Little did we know that our own WOW moment of the entire Smarter Cities Challenge was around the corner – and perhaps not surprisingly it came from children of Allahabad. We were very lucky to be able to visit a truly inspiring school (Khel Gaon Public School) which is dedicated to combining sport and education for the students that attend. We received an amazing welcome from the students and staff – I lost count of the number of rounds of applause we were given. We were presented with beautiful garlands upon our arrival before being taken into the school’s enormous gymnasium – to receive yet more applause from the 500-600 children that were sitting above us on three sides. With us on a podium, hundreds of children from 5 years old to 17 years old watching – I just couldn’t believe that this was:
- for us only! there was a poster with our names on it and pictures!
- put together in less than a week because it would take a whole PTO and 10+ parent volunteers in the US
- so quiet and organized – can you imagine hundreds of children in uniforms, in less than well air conditioned gym for 2 hours watching someone speak – quietly? And genuinely smiling?
Each of us had goose bumps (and yes, some got a bit more emotional as they spoke) from the warmth of the reception.
The children performed an amazing set of gymnastics, dance and other sporting demonstrations – the standard of each was extremely high. I was particularly thrilled to finally see a piece of real Indian dance (one that I have been looking for but so far only got the techno beat in the gym). We were then bowled over by the exchange of some beautiful personal gifts – embroidered scarfs from the school and signed books from our IBM team. The students were very interested to hear from each of us about our countries and our schooling – in fact during this exchange we also learned a little more about each other.
But perhaps the most impressive part of the visit was the smaller interactive sessions we had with some of the senior students of the school. They were clearly extremely bright children – they had researched our backgrounds and asked us insightful questions about our education as well as our Smarter City Challenge. You should see our faces when these kids, in fluent English started talking brownfields/greenfields, cybersecurity, and quoting information about us that they clearly looked up on LinkedIn or other public sources. I was beyond impressed. The hunger for knowledge, global view, learning from others was absolutely mesmerizing.
As we drove away – everyone of us reflected on a wonderful morning. I don’t know what the final presentation will look like (I have an idea though) but 100% sure it will not beat this. The genuine interest, passion, smiles, talent – this was something that is impossible to replicate. And I am pretty sure you won’t see us (at least me) sniff during a powerpoint presentation 🙂
Note: this blog post was co-written with Colin Hall – thanks Colin!