Halloween Comedy from a Project Manager Keynote Speaker


This Halloween, I sure could use the help of one of the talented project managers who are currently headed to Columbus, Ohio for their annual mega-gathering and symposium. (It's the Project Manager Institute, Central Ohio Chapter, if you're curious.) I'm their luncheon keynote speaker and I'm still in the process of crafting my presentation as I juggle my other time-sensitive pending project at the moment, which is pumpkin carving.

I think I may need a Gantt chart to better visualize the scope and cost of my Halloween deliverables. Those are fancy project manager words, by the way. Impressed? Don’t be. Because this Halloween my stakeholders (who include my wife and eight-year-old daughter) are foot-stomping mad and demanding better ROI on the autumnally orange trio of "projects on hold" that are currently relaxing on top of that dang summer cooler I have yet to put into storage.


So I tried to explain to them about the my pumpkin "project creep" dilemma. (Project creep is another term that you shouldn't be impressed with.)

“OK, listen," I say, hand in air. “Walgreen’s is sold out of the carving kits with all those cool stencil-like training-wheel patterns. And last year my combo bat/cat triple-goofy ghost design was Picasso-level scary-brilliant. Admit it!"

They nod. That’s right, I remind them that even our snobbiest neighbors were in awe of my softly glowing masterpiece. And I for once felt like an ice sculptor in the town square.

My wife interjects. “What does this have to do with ... ?"

“Did you not hear me? They’re GONE. The patterns are gone! Jewel, Best Buy, even JoAnne fabrics — all sold out. Our neighbors think I’m a master carver, but without those patterns I’m a fraud. A pumpkin pretender, a Halloween humbug, a fruit-fumbling faker who can't bedazzle a gourd without professional help!"

My wife says, “Oh, honey, we don’t really need those silly ... "

“YES! WE! DO!” I shout. I realize I'm in a little too deep. "I can’t go back to being the bumbling butcher of Dover Street! How soon you forget that all my other attempts before those cursed klutz-enabling patterns came along were pure pumpkin-decorating malpractice. Porch-goblin massacres! Those weren't Jack-o'-lanterns, they were HACK-o'-lanterns! If any kids had tried to smash them, I would've said, 'Here, let me help! No, come back, YOU MISSED ONE!'"

One year it was so bad the neighbors created a contest to come up with the the best name for my disfigured squash sculptures. I think the one that hurt the most was “Ode to Almost Triangles." That actually took second place. I can't even type the name that won the contest, it's still too raw.

One year I was so ashamed of my crappy carving that I told my daughter the squirrels had gotten to the pumpkins and gnawed away my design! I wish they would have — the results probably would have turned out better. But the squirrels hadn’t touched ’em. They were probably confused because they couldn’t identify my victims as pumpkins anymore.

I take a breath. My daughter says, “Squirrels? Dad, you lied to me?"

I say, “Yes. Yes, you were three. Parents lie to three-year-olds every single day as a basic tool of survival. You’ll understand someday — or you can choose not to have kids and stay confused. I don’t really care because right now I have a major presentation to put together for Ohio's elite project professionals who, if I don't get going on it, might wind up thinking I have no insights to offer except that:

• It’s OK to lie to your three-year-old
• Get your Halloween heinie to Walgreens by August 1st if you want a pumpkin pattern, and
• Don’t accept major bookings this close to Halloween unless you want to disappoint everyone, including your own puffed-up pumpkin pride.

BTW, a Gantt chart is a graphic display that illustrates the scheduled tasks for a specific project. I’m not sure how one might graphically chart several days of freaking out about a major presentation alongside the imperative to perform delicate surgery on several large pieces of ripe fruit, but that’s my Gantt chart for this upcoming group.

Wish me luck on this one ... and Happy Halloween, everyone!

Tim Clue