Keep Your Word to Get More Gigs
By Bill Sheridan
In a recent blog I noted that one of the main functions of a job I had while still in the corporate world was hiring speakers for a major Midwestern life insurance company’s annual sales meetings.
I recall a few months prior to 9-11 hiring a speaker based on his excellent video and sterling references. He exhibited high energy and creativity in the speech that was recorded and had an excellent message for our particular audience. I anticipated a Standing O from the crowd based on my experience for what they liked.
Unfortunately, the exact opposite transpired.
Our meeting was one of the first few held nationwide after that horrible event for our county. Other events were cancelled but we decided to go ahead several weeks after the tragedy in late September 2001. Only a handful of the anticipated 700 attendees chose not to attend for fear of a terrorist attack with flights, so we were proud to show our patriotism in helping things get back to normal.
Our speaker had promised contractually to be in the meeting city on Friday night previous to the 3 p.m. Saturday performance. That was our usual custom and agreed upon by the presenter well in advance.
To our dismay, however, he had not arrived by noon on Saturday and we could not reach him by phone. Frantically we began to rearrange our lineup assuming that he was going to be a No Show. Thankfully, at 1:00 p.m. we got a call saying that he had landed at the airport and would be there “in plenty of time.”
That “plenty of time” did not allow him to meet with our A-V folks for sound checks and a general discussion about our expectations. When he finally did arrive, there was a half-hearted apology and he explained that he took a gig on the east coast to make up for those he lost due to 9-11; and was sure that we would understand under the circumstances.
I personally was ready to give him the benefit of the doubt until he did his thing on stage. His presentation was sub-par compared to the video; he was tired and a tad bit disoriented; at one time he seemed to conclude and got a warm applause but nothing within a zip code of a Standing O; and then to our chagrin began prattling on for 15-minutes hawking his books and videos. This was a definite No No as we had made it clear that he was allowed 2-minutes of ‘discreet’ self-promotion. To add to our horror, when this episode finally seemed to be winding down—he had the gall to begin again on an unrelated topic for 10-minutes!
At long last he concluded to nothing more than a courteous hand clap from those few still remaining in the meeting hall.
What did we do?
Paid him and spread the word to our peers that he was a disaster as a speaker. He won the battle but lost the war.
As a professional—you have a choice. Honor your word or disrespect the company that hired you. My recommendation is to ALWAYS choose the former rather than the latter!
Bill Sheridan—Sheridan Writes, LLC

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