Yup… well… nope… well… It’s a long story:
I am just back from Florida where I was a humorist motivational speaker for a group of quality improvement organizations related to health care. It was a health care improvement conference (boringly named) TRI-Regional. :) ) (These are the good folks who work hard to make sure that our hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care providers do a great job, are cost efficient, proved top quality health care, etc.
Here is a photo of me and Lisa, their awesome (and totally voluntary) meeting planner.
It was a weird job for so many reasons; the main reason was that my clients confided in me a couple of hours before I was to go on stage that the convention was to be shut down. This convention with a 29-year history was to be no more. They were shutting down.
This was big news; most of the people in the audience were sad. They would miss the convention and what it stood for: an exchange of valuable information, and a way to connect to others in this very difficult industry. And they would miss contact with peers who had become close friends. And besides… it was in Florida. (Even if it was in the height of June. :))
When they planned when to put my openning keynote, my clients were thinking, as amazing at it seems, of me. They were worried that if they announced this horrible news before my keynote speech the room would still be in shock, and I’d bomb. The speech would be a disaster. They didn’t want me to feel that kind of pressure.
But after a huddled meeting about our choices, at my suggestion we agreed to put my my opening speech immediately after the bad-news announcement. We did it for two reasons. First, no matter how good I did at building the energy, excitement, and enthusiasm for them and their conference, the announcement AFTER my speech would just crash the energy. The conference attendees would forget me and what I taught them about taking themselves lightly. They would just come down.
But the second reason we agreed to put me first, is that it would give me a chance to to improve the energy. Yes, they would crash when they heard this was the last conference. Yes they would be sad. Yes they would be preoccupied and thinking, “What does this mean for me?” But I’d have a chance to look that negative energy in the eye, label it, call attention to it, mock it, joke with and about it… and work on looking past it. I’d have a chance to spin the bad news into something manageable. Something that we might even face with grace, professionalism, and yes, even humor.
I’m so glad we did it that way. It was one of the most bizarre and difficult audiences I’ve had in the past few years. They were absolutely SILENT I first got on stage. I’m tellin’ ya… they were practically like a funeral audience. They were freaked out. They were NOT in a mood for laughing.
Think of it… They announce some bad news that makes everybody sad… and some people REALLY sad, and then say, “Now here’s a funny motivational speaker!!” Can you imagine?
But from the first minute on stage, I called attention to the news, and even poked fun at it. And then, over the next wonderful 90 minutes we all got the chance to look at it from different perspectives, to begin the healing, and yup.. we even laughed. We laughed a lot.
Afterwards the energy in the hall was hoping. Folks were laughing, smiling, chatting, and snacking. Sure, they were talking about the news, but they were talking about it from a positive place.
In the end I was thrilled. It was great to be part of that group, even if only for the day. And it was great to be used by my client in (what I thought) was a place where I could really do some good. It was great to be used in a place where I had a chance to make a difference.
We all had a good time; and in spite of that difficult assignment, I had at least as much fun as the rest of them. What a blast!
Hey Tri-Regional… a favor? What did YOU get out of my motivational keynote speech? What were your “AHA” moments? What did you take away? Leave me a comment below…