First Time in 30 Years?

As I wrote about in my previous post, I recently keynoted the Independent Distributors Association annual convention in Banff, Alberta, Canada.

If you’ve ever hired a speaker for an event, you know it’s a risky proposition. You can watch a speaker’s demo video and talk with some referrals, but until that speaker actually delivers an awesome presentation, you never know what’s going to happen. I’ve personally seen other speakers who didn’t live up to the promise, and I’ve seen speakers who were difficult-to-please prima donnas. Both are the bane of a meeting planner’s life.

I remember one time I was hired to present a breakout session for a major trade association in San Diego. As always, I arrived early to my session room to make sure everything was set up and AV was working. As is often the case, I rearranged the chairs and moved the screen for a better audience experience. 

A few minutes before start time, the meeting planner walked into the room to make sure everything was ready. I assured her the room, AV, and I were all set and she didn’t need to spend any more of her valuable time with me. I knew she had plenty of other tasks and small fires.

She responded, “I am staying to introduce you. I have something important say.”

Obviously, this was totally fine, but I was curious by what she meant when she said, “I have something important to say.”

At start time, she stepped to the front. “I’d like to introduce your presenter for this morning, Steve Miller. Before I give you his bio, I want to tell you I’ve already decided Steve will be back next year. Across the hall is a speaker who will never come back. That speaker has been nothing but difficult from the day I hired him and I have to go across and babysit him some more. Steve, however, is the easiest speaker I’ve ever worked with. I haven’t had to worry one minute about him, and because of that, he will be back.” She finished my intro and left.

Frankly, at that time I had no idea being easy was a big deal. I thought every speaker did what I did, assuming it was the ante to be in the game. And, even though nobody would ever accusee me of being the brightest bulb in the pack, I learned. Ever since, I’ve continued to work hard to be easy. 

I learned another similar lesson this week from my IDA client. As I always do after speaking or consulting, I send a thank you card and a small gift. I often take pictures at the meeting and try to get one with me and my client together. I then custom design a thank you card through my Send Out Cards account, including a small gift available through their system. Usually I send brownies. They’re very tasty!

Shortly after sending the card and brownies, I received the following email:

          Dear Steve,

My goodness! I just got your lovely surprise.  A first in 30 years of planning meetings.  

Still the feedback keeps coming and you did “make me look good”.  Terry M. did not exaggerate when he recommended you highly!

If you would ever want to use me for a reference.  I would be more than happy to do so.

Obviously, I’m delighted to hear I made her look good. That’s important to me. But the surprise was her comment, “A first in 30 years of planning meetings.”

What? A first thank you? I asked about that and she said, no, she’d received many thank you notes, but never a gift – in 30 years! 

I find that amazing. Just like when I learned how unusual it is to be easy to work with, I assumed this was common practice. I didn’t send anything extravagant or expensive. I send four brownies, yet look at the impression it made.

Many years ago, Brian Tracy shared something in conversation I’ve always taken to heart. He told me that almost every successful company and person had one thing in common. They are Brilliant at the Basics. Even Vince Lombardi saw its importance when he said:

Some people try to find things in this game that don’t exist but football is only two things – blocking and tackling.

Being easy to work with? Saying thank you with a small gift? These aren’t advanced tactics. Apparently, though, they’re also not common practice.