I’m just back from a speaking at an event in California that went well in spite of the client’s best efforts.
Let me explain. I was hired for a corporate group who had 300 of the most important people in the room for my program. These were crucial business partners, and the stakes were high.
So my client was nervous. They had taken a huge chance on me— they had hired professional speakers before, but only celebrities and sports figures. They had never hired a speaker who does what I do — provide a non-celebrity, funny motivational speech with tons of humor and audience participation.
So, they were nervous. All of this is fine, normal, and a bit flattering that they chose me.
They were nervous. And I totally understand. Being nervous is totally understandable.
But how their nerves came out at the event was totally amazing, and more than a bit destructive.
Again, it ended up okay. But honestly, it was touch and go for a bit.
What happened was that about 45 minutes before I was to go on the stage, and just as the audience was entering the room, I gave my client my introduction for him to read to introduce me. (I sent an introduction, but he somehow didn’t get it.)
After reading my intro, this man got really serious, thoughtful, and…. er…. not so happy. He wasn’t happy. He asked a couple o questions about the intro, my intentions, and more. He eventually said, “Is this introduction serious?”
I was stunned. Now remember… he’s clearly not happy for some reason, the audience is gathering, and he’s asking me a question that doesn’t make any sense to me.
I answer, “I’m not sure what you mean, but yes, I’d love for you to read this intro. I’ve done it a thousand times, and it means a bunch to the success of the program.”
He then went into specifics about the opening sentence, the fact that my introduction mixes both my credentials and some self deprecating humor. He questioned whether my included jokes were funny and appropriate.
The vibe was bad. This guy was clearly nervous that I was the wrong guy. That my humor wasn’t going to be funny. Basically, he was showing serious doubts about hiring me. And he made this all very clear clear to me.
Suddenly I’m defending myself to him. I’m “selling myself” to this man with whom saw all my videos, talked to my past clients, and had multiple conversations with me on the phone. Yet now, as the audience was finding their way into the room, he’s made it clear that he doubts my ability to deliver for his clients. And he made that doubt abundantly clear to me when at last he said with a shrug, “Well, I guess we’ll have to go with it.”
Public speaking is notoriously scary. And occasionally public speakers get nervous too. I do. But my experience helps me to channel the nerves into something positive.
But come on. As a motivational speaker I’m supposed to deal with my nerves on my own. But in this case, the nerves were coming FROM my client.
I’m proud of my speaking experience. I’m proud of my ability to deal with any audience. But I admit it; I can get a little fragile too. And my California client was putting me the test.
So, over the next 30 minutes, instead of getting myself into the right frame of mind, instead of getting geared up for the 350 people who were expecting me to make them laugh, and instead of going over my notes about this client, I was having to psych myself up from the lousy place my client put me.
It worked out fine. The audience loved our time together. The top executives from the company and I chatted and let me know they were pleased. Really pleased. It was fine.
My point? It amazed me that this company went to the extreme lengths to make sure I was the right guy, to talk with me and coach me about their company’s needs and how I can best customize the program, fly me to California, and then prepare to put me in front of their top business partners.
And then…. with very little time to spare, he sabotaged his speaker at the worst possible time.
If you want to get the most bang for YOUR speaker investment, here are a couple of tips:
1. Clearly communicate what you want, and make sure your speaker can deliver it.
2. Ask your speaker what he needs to succeed…. (AV, Info, Room set up, etc) and GIVE IT TO THEM.
3. Make the travel, hotel and set up easy. Tired and stressed-out speakers don’t do as well as happy, relaxed and comfortable ones.
4. And, the BIG lesson for today is….. Once you’ve chosen your speaker, support him! Don’t second guess him. Don’t doubt him. And don’t make him feel like you’re sorry you hired him. You don’t have to give him a big bear hug before he goes up, but a tiny bit of nurturing won’t kill ya. Just be nice, and you’ll get more for your dollar.
Professional Motivational Speaker, Admittedly Occationally Nervous Speaker