Worst. Gig. Ever.

The Power of a Team. Daren WrideThe Setup:

  • They wanted a team talk, and my teambuilding keynote was solid and proven. I wanted to do a talk that related to my new book which was more about personal development. But the talk was not as polished as the team talk. But they agreed.
  • The evening before, I had resigned as pastor from a church I’d served for over five years and was stepping out of a career I’d been in for almost twenty.
  • As soon as the talk was finished, I would need to get in the car and drive for several hours to get ready to give a talk the next day to a very demanding audience. I was more concerned about the second talk than the first.
  • The day before the event the organizer informed me they wanted 90 minutes instead of the contracted 60 minutes. I foolishly agreed to deliver.

The Event:

  • It was a hot early summer day in the Okanagan. The conference attendees had lunch, then a business meeting, then a coffee break…then me. (Anyone who has ever been to a conference or spoken at a conference knows that this is not a “preferred time slot.”)
  • The speaking platform was a small cluster of small risers quite far from the front row. Miles from the back rows where most people sat.
  • The sound system (to call it a system is being generous) was unattended and simply piped through the conference room’s ceiling speakers. The only control I had was the volume.

The Talk:

  • I knew immediately I was dead.
  • The sound was awful, they wanted a team talk, they also wanted a nap.
  • I made it to 75 minutes.

The Feedback:

  • Due to the strength of my talk The Power of a Team, I was used to effusive praise.
    Not gonna happen today!
  • The organizer said to me after the talk “Maybe we should have stayed with 60 minutes.”
  • One of the feedback sheets said “Nice Try.”
  • Others were more um, direct. Something along the lines of “Why didn’t we just get one of our own people to talk.”

The Lessons:

  • Deliver what they want not what you want.
  • Never deliver a half-baked presentation.
  • Include in the contract some details about the required speaking space, sound, room setup.
  • Pay attention to the larger context of your life and perhaps say no to an extra opportunity so you can succeed in another.

This event was almost a decade ago, but I still cringe every time I think of it.
I wonder how many spin-off events I lost by not delivering the Team talk.
I feel bad for the person who hired me, because part of the job as a speaker is to make the meeting planner a hero.

Yes, this post is an attempt at catharsis, as well as capturing some lessons from that painful afternoon.

And maybe it will stop another speaker or service provider from under-delivering and dying on their platform.

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