Listen Before You Speak or Tell Your Story

Dave Carroll is a professional musician. While waiting to exit a United Airlines flight at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, he saw his band’s guitars being tossed around by baggage handlers like they were bags of garbage being thrown into a dumpster.

Dave was furious. He immediately complained to three different United Airlines employees.  Each time, his complaint was met with indifference and “you’ll have to take that up with someone in another department” responses.

Because he needed his guitar to do his job, he had it repaired, and paid for the repairs out of his own pocket.

The cost was about $1,200. As Dave continued to try to resolve this issue with United, he was turned down time-and-time again. Remember, all he wanted was reimbursement for the cost to fix his guitar.

No one at United cared enough to listen and solve his problem.

Nine months later, out of frustration, he took matters into his own hands and did the one thing he could control: He created a music video about his experience, and on July 6, 2009, posted it on You Tube. His hope was that it would get enough views to raise awareness of his plight.

His story did get attention – in one day, the video amassed over 150,000 views. Within one month, it had 500,000 views, and by mid-August. 2009,  5 million had seen it.

People all over the world heard about United’s indifference to an easily solvable problem. This was a public relations nightmare for United Airlines.

In the days that followed, United experienced serious financial repercussions. Shares of United Airlines stock dropped 10%, or approximately $180 million.

$180 million because one employee after another failed to listen to a disgruntled customer who had a reasonable request: Fix the problem that YOU created.

To United Airlines credit, they eventually addressed the issue and resolved Mr. Carroll’s problem. But, the situation should have never gotten to the point of him creating his video and humiliating the company.

What does this have to do with speaking? You may not be the head of a multi-billion dollar international company. However, you have the same responsibility they do – listen to your clients and customers.  You may not be so arrogant as to ignore an obvious error like destroying a client’s guitar, but are you really listening to the stated needs of the people you serve?

As you prepare your presentations, do you fully understand the scope of the problems you’re addressing. For example, if you are giving a talk about ‘leadership’, what exactly does that mean? What aspects of leadership does your client want you to help? If you’re asked to talk about ‘client service,’ are you crystal clear on what that means to the client?

The late Stephen Covey once said, “The deepest desire of the human heart is to be understood.” Are you taking the few minutes required to help others reach that desire?

The next time you are asked to speak at an event or to give a sales presentation, remember David Carroll, and United Airlines.  Invest a few minutes of time to ask sincere questions and pay close attention to the needs of others. Taking time to understand their true objectives can help you avoid the debacle of the $180 million guitar experienced by United Airlines.

To see Dave Carroll’s original video, click here.


As a follow-up to the idea of asking the right questions, I highly recommend the book ‘Power Questions’ by Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas. The book offers terrific insight into the types of questions that uncover the true needs of prospective clients and meeting planners. I’ve used their questions to develop deeper levels of trust and connection with my clients.

To order ‘Power Question’ click here.

Are You Making the ‘$180 Million Mistake’ When You’re Asked to Speak? ultima modifica: 2014-07-03T15:04:01-04:00 da Michael Davis