A Speaker’s Nightmare
Have you heard people say that you should never leave the house without making an effort to look good, because you never know who you may bump into?
How about…because you never know when you may have a speaking engagement?
I was asked to speak to a large group of real estate professionals about what to wear so their professionalism and skill set shine through via their appearance.
Perhaps the first hint that this presentation was not going to run smoothly was when I received a copy of the invitation:
Your Profile Photo Is Talking
Presenter: Scarlett Johansson, Image Consultant
I immediately emailed the event organizer and asked her to identify the speaker as myself, Scarlett De Bease. Once I corrected the “I am not that Scarlett” issue, I returned to creating my presentation, selecting my clients’ before and after photos that highlighted my tips, and I carefully wrote out my personalized talking points. I even made an appointment to get my hair styled, cut and colored the day before the scheduled presentation. What else could possibly go wrong?
With 24 hours to go ’til show time, I left the hair salon and noticed that the organizer had left me a voicemail asking if I need directions to the location for the event. Of course I didn’t need directions; I have GPS. Again, what could go wrong?
A few minutes later she called again, and this time I answered. She wanted to know if I was lost, and when I would arrive, as my talk was to start in 30 minutes. I was about a 45-minute ride away and my mind was racing. I asked: “You mean today?”
“Yes, didn’t you see the date in the announcement”? She was referring to the invitation stating that Scarlett Johansson would be speaking.
I began to shake, stutter and sweat, but I assured her I was on my way, and constantly repeated, “I’m sorry.”
I had no time to pick up my computer with the slide presentation or my notes. While driving much faster than I should and berating myself for having made such a huge mistake, I hatched a plan. I would ask the audience to visit my web site to see the before and after photos of my clients and I would improvise my talk. I then made a 45-minute ride into a 30-minute one, and arrived breathless with a band of brown dye on my hairline, no visual presentation and not a not a single piece of paper with notes to guide me.
After apologizing profusely to the group for my Hollywood-style tardiness and for not being Scarlett Johansson, I asked all to use their smart phones or tablets to view my website, and began my presentation, followed by the Q&A.
By the time my presentation ended (and if I may say so, it went very well), I was slightly calmer but still extremely upset. I am a professional, yet I felt like a neophyte. This was simply unacceptable to me.
As I made my way around the room, one of the other organizers responded to yet another one of my apologies, with this: “Well in your defense, the original date was tomorrow.”
I couldn’t wait to get home to open my computer and search for the email informing me of the date change. You guessed it: there was no such email and I was never informed of the date change.
- Confirm all event details with a phone call in addition to email.
- Know your material well enough that you can present it anytime and anywhere. Think of yourself as an understudy and always be ready to get on stage.
- Keep a copy of your presentation notes in an actual folder in your car, and/or on your mobile device.
- Don’t ever leave your home or office without being dressed in such a way that you will not be embarrassed or uncomfortable if you were to bump into someone you know. Ever!
- Make lemonade out of lemons. This speaking nightmare was one of the most stressful business situations I was ever in, but it has provided me great material to share with my audiences, and now with you.