No matter how long you have been speaking there are still lessons to be learned and I learned a huge one earlier this month in the province of Manitoba. I was booked to do two, one hour presentations to the Eastern Manitoba Dairy Farmers annual conference in the beautiful little town of Steinbach Manitoba.. The flight from Hamilton ON was terrific. There is something awe inspiring about flying at 41,000 feet in the winter moonlight.
The accommodations were clean and comfortable and I certainly was well fed by friendly hospitable farm folk. “So what’s the problem?” you ask. Well it was in the set-up of the hall. The conference took place in a rather large one room community hall just outside of Steinbach. The fact that it was in ONE room was the problem.
The planners had the hall divided into two sections separated by a large blue curtain. On the right side of the curtain was the speaking and eating area. On the left side was the sponsor’s display area. The sponsors had their booths set up to attract potential customers and the farmers flocked to their section to chat with friends and representatives from the various sponsoring companies. The laughter and the social interaction was a pleasure to behold. Until it was my time to speak that is.
It was only when I began to speak that I became aware of the competing noise level coming from the other side of the blue curtain. It was totally distracting and there was nothing anyone could do about it. The sponsors had every right to interact with the farmers. They were paying the bills for the conference and I was only an invited guest hired by the planners to present two talks on humor and human relationships.
The only thing that saved my sanity was the magnetic power of humor and laughter. The more the audience laughed the more the people from the other side of the curtain were drawn to see what was so funny. I survived the first day but the second day was no better. The same thing happened, plus a few crying babies.
THE LESSON LEARNED??? Always ask about the set-up of the room or hall. You can bet that from now on I will want to know if the sponsors will be in the same room as the speakers. If they are I will either decline the invitation or increase my fee to include combat pay.
It was a frustrating but fun experience. I got good coverage from the Winnipeg affiliate of CTV and the people really enjoyed my message and my style of delivery. In spite of the distractions I remained calm and focussed. If I had become flustered I think the audience would have reacted negatively towards me. Another lesson learned.