A “Last-Minute” Request

Have you ever missed something obvious, and later felt really dumb about it?
Last Thursday, I emceed a terrific event. It was the initial ‘Leadership Through Philanthropy’ event. The host was the Community Foundation of West Chester/Liberty Township.
Six days before the event, the Foundation asked me to emcee it. When I arrived, I was prepared, but also focused on reviewing the schedule throughout the evening. This helps me be ready for last-minute changes to the agenda.

 A Unique Opportunity

This program was unusual – there were two different periods of at least 20 minutes where I wasn’t involved. During these times, I was able to graze on dinner, review my notes…. and blow an opportunity to talk with a dynamic individual. I also missed an opportunity to make a (potentially) beneficial business connection.
The woman seated immediately to my left was talking with a woman named Julie. She had turned to face Julie. Reading this body language, I didn’t want to be rude, so I didn’t interrupt them.
After several minutes, Julie introduced me to the woman seated next to me. In a noticeable Boston accent, she said, “Hi, I’m Heather.” I introduced myself, made a comment like “pleasure to meet you,” and then returned to studying my notes.

Speaking of Feeling Dumb

Speaking Lesson From A Boston Marathon Bombing Survivor

Heather Abbott

There was one other aspect of this event that was different. I didn’t introduce the keynote speaker. That task fell to one of the Foundation members, Justin. After I introduced him, I sat down, satisfied that I had done a good job on short notice.
Then, Justin began his comments. A picture of the keynote speaker flashed on the screen. It read: “Heather Abbott – Boston Marathon Bombing Survivor.”
My heart sank. Heather Abbott was the woman sitting next to me! She was a survivor of an event I had great interest in. I had been given the opportunity of one-on-one time over dinner. I could’ve asked her about her experience, the aftermath of the bombing – anything!
And now, it was too late – she was about to speak.
In that moment, I felt really dumb. How could I have been so focused I missed this opportunity?
After telling this story to a friend, he said, “Mike, don’t be too hard on yourself. Your job was to serve your client, and make sure the event ran smoothly. You did that very well..”
He’s right, my client and the event were my first priority. And, I lived up to my professional obligation to them. The event was a success. The organizers were thrilled with my work.

Lesson (Re)-Learned

I was more than prepared by the time the event started. My bigger point is about awareness. Every day, opportunity surrounds you. If you pay attention, you can capitalize on those opportunities. I had a rare chance – one-to-one time with someone who’s had a unique experience – and I wasn’t paying attention.
Could I send her a note, or email, and open up a conversation?
Sure. And I have. But, someone in Heather’s position usually has a jam-packed calendar. Getting that one-to-one time is tough, if not impossible.
The most frustrating aspect of this story is that I teach people to be aware of your surroundings at all times. As a speaker, it’s important to notice your surroundings. Know who the key players are, and who is in your audience.
Being hired to emcee a few days before the event is no excuse. I should’ve asked more about the program.
If you want to be professional, and take advantage of opportunities, don’t make the mistake I made. Live up to your obligation to the people who hire you. Be prepared. Then, ask questions if you feel information is missing. Know everyone who is involved with the event.
And for goodness sake, talk to the people around you, if only for a couple of minutes. You never know who is sitting right next to you.


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Boy, Did I Feel Dumb… (Avoid This Rookie Speaking Mistake) ultima modifica: 2017-06-12T08:50:57-04:00 da Michael Davis