Picture this, you are speaking at a big conference. You notice the agenda is way behind. There is no way they are going to start the program on time. You see the event planners scurrying around doing damage control. You are the next one up. What can you do? This is exactly where I found myself, speaking in India, a few weeks ago. Consider these important insights.
#1 It’s Not Your Call.
Even if you are the keynote speaker and the draw to the conference, it is not up to you. We are hired, whether free or big fee, to be an important part of an event. We are just a piece of the big picture. The wait staff, AV team and volunteers are just as important as you. Respect your craft.
We need to get together with our boss, the event planner, and have a discussion. We may not be aware of all of the moving parts. When a conference is happening, there is lunch to be served at a certain time, which is in motion out of sight, but never out of the event planner’s mind. Be careful with your ego. I need to keep mine in check as well. Yes, they may have brought you in for a reason to deliver a message, but they are in the middle of creating an experience for the attendees; we need to adjust as professionals.
Ask the event planner what is best at this point. More often than not, I am asked to cut my time. As a professional, I need to have my 60-minute, 45-minute and 30-minute slide deck ready to go. I should be able to switch out in less than a minute. Prepare for this ahead of time. You do not want to be deleting slides under this kind of pressure.
You have two choices; you can cut your time, or cut your relationship with that event planner. Make no mistake, event planners know event planners. It is a small world. You may win the battle and do your allotted time, but at what cost? Who else do they know they could have recommended you to? If you were hired via a speaker’s bureau, your actions on the ground will get back to the people who recommended you. Are you then hurting that relationship too?
We need to ask the event planner if they wish us to cut our time or deliver the full program. Sometimes, they do wish me to do the full program. It is up to them. I have witnessed a big-time celebrity mess up an entire conference schedule of 1,000 people doing twice the time he was allotted. I am willing to bet no one called him out on it. Word will get around and lead to fewer engagements which probably cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars, never mind me as a fan. If they need us to, we can take a whole lot of pressure off their shoulders. We can quickly switch gears; that is what true professionals do.
#3 Give Them Options.
An event planner may be new to the job or even unaware of other options that we could provide. I learned so many crucial insights from Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE; and I put one into action in Kolkata, India. What else could you do?
Conference attendees were out late dancing the night before my Sunday morning keynote. We were to start at 8:00 a.m. Out of a room of 350 people, there were only a handful of them in the room by 7:55, just before I was about to speak. In their culture, I learned this was not unusual. They postponed the starting time until 8:30 a.m. Patricia’s wisdom popped into my head. She would say to take care of the people who are on time. So, I asked Vishal, the convention chair, if it was OK for me to pull up a chair and do a Q & A with the people who were there.
Again, we need to always ask permission. It is his call, not mine. I wanted to honor the people who were on time. I am there; they are there. Why not serve them? So, with Vishal’s blessing, I pulled up a chair, grabbed a mic, and explained what I was doing. They were the ones there on time. They deserved bonus material. Q & A is perfect because I don’t want to take way from my actual program. It also gives them special attention and a reward for being on time. They loved it. The event planner was happy because now he is serving people instead of punishing people who actually showed up on time by making them sit there gaining nothing. That can be frustrating to them.
Remember, this is a relationship business; and your actions off stage are equally important as your content and delivery on stage. On a side note, as a teacher, I asked someone to take a pic of this and send it to me so that I could show you what I did to pass on what I learned from Patricia. I also asked Vishal if he could offer his perspective on the situation and what it meant to him. Hear what he had to say as I sit down with him, in the moment, in this video:
Ego is a big problem once people start becoming successful in this business. Have the team mindset and set your intention to do your best for the event as a whole. Even when the event planner makes mistakes, it is their call, not ours. Respect your craft.
What do you take from this?
Are you making any of these Top 10 Speaking Mistakes?