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Coping with blizzards, failed heating and a no show speaker

17 February, 2015

A few years ago I was booked to speak on creative thinking to open a conference for Primary School Head Teachers being held in a very smart Country Club – in rural Essex! It was early March and I arrived the night before in order to be on site nice and early in the morning to make sure everything was ready for my speech. This is something I always do – unless I happen to be speaking at a dinner the night before – though even then I would prefer to travel through the night rather than risk being late the next morning.

On this occasion it turned out to be a very fortuitous decision! An early Spring snowstorm blew in overnight – which continued into the next morning.

Having checked everything was all set and ready for my presentation I had popped back to my room when I received a phone call saying that the speaker due on after me had been snowed in …  and could I help them out by doing an “an extra 45 minutes to fill in”!  Nothing daunted …  I didn’t hesitate and said yes before trawling my memory bank for extra material to fill in the time!

Not only that …  when I went back to the conference room (which was in an annex separate to the hotel) I was then informed the heating had broken down and that the delegates were being asked to wrap up to keep warm! So I was faced with occupying an audience  for 90 minutes – with everyone wearing their winter coats, gloves, scarves and woolly hats – and the condensation from everyone’s breath rising like mist in the air! Luckily everyone saw the funny side and I soon had them laughing, listening – and thinking!

Moral of this story for speakers:
• Always be early!
• Be prepared for last minute problems – for example – could you deliver your talk without slides if there is a power cut?
• Have a back up plan – and extra material to fill in – just in case
• Be an asset to your client – part of the solution not the problem!
• Say Yes first – then find a way to do it

Here’s what the conference Chair had to say:
“John saved a poor start to the conference due to weather, heating problems and no show speakers! He was very clued up as to what we wanted and very entertaining, and certainly met our requirements and beyond. Not only was his presentation excellent, but so was his attitude to his “client”. He was extremely civil, amenable and very pleasant. His impact on the audience was huge.”
Ruth Brock, Chair, EPHA

Wow thanks Ruth! Glad I was able to rise to the challenge!

This story is extracted from my “Keynote Case Studies”. To read more about the event – and the client – see HERE

If you are a speaker I would love to hear any of your “coping with the unexpected” stories! (and how you survived!). Please use the feedback form below to comment!

If you are looking for an entertaining keynote or after-dinner speaker – please get in touch to discuss your event!

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