You have dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s. You checked your checklist-twice. And yet again. Speaker on site-check. Sound check done-check. The attendees are all registered and accommodated-check. You and your group are all settled in for the night. The retreat site is located within a two-hours’ drive from the nearest airport in a lovely, wooded area, lakeside. Your speaker had arrived earlier in his rental car and is parked at his onsite cabin, ready to deliver a carefully prepared presentation in the morning. All is calm.
And then, in the late-night hours…the unexpected strikes.
Huge winds come out of nowhere, bringing with them boatloads of rain. The sound is deafening. The trees are creaking and thunder and lightning guarantee a night of restlessness for all.
The morning daylight reveals a stormy mess and a bleary-eyed group of attendees. The violent wind has knocked down trees during the night. One landed directly on the speaker’s rental car, crushing it. The electricity is out. How to hold the meeting with no lights or electricity, and a less than energetic group?
This actually happened in the early 90’s to one of our speakers, Rob. With his sense of humor and adventure, he refused to let anything stand in the way of an excellent presentation, not even the lack of power. The few windows in the meeting room were opened completely to allow natural light. Rob spoke louder, without any microphone assistance. The graphic technology in use back then, a slide projector, sat uselessly next to him, disabled by the lack of power. So, turning lemons to lemonade, Rob picked up each now-useless slide graphic illustrating his talk, peered carefully at it and explained what was on it. Then, in a move that grew more hilarious with time, he would fling each slide at the audience.
The meeting was not only saved; it was a grand success and memorable for the bonding that occurred by sharing such a violent storm together. Rob caught a ride back to the airport with one of the attendees. He left the demolished car at the retreat site, as he had fortuitously taken out full insurance coverage and, therefore, had no personal liability for the damage. And that insurance coverage also protected the meeting planner from further expenses.
Are you and your speaker or speakers mentally and emotionally capable to handle unexpected problems? The unexpected happens from time to time. Have you had any experiences like this?
Andrea H. Gold and Gary K. Yamamoto are co-authors of the e-book, “How to Book a Speaker: For Meeting Planners Planning an Event.” This clear, how-to guide shows those thrust into the role of planner to effectively find the best speakers for a meeting and to avoid problems with proper preparation. The e-book, available in the summer of 2013, can be found at http://www.goldstars.com/products/products.html.