One week ago I drove over 200 miles to give my keynote presentation for a first of its kind event in a small city in my home state: The Inaugural Business EXPO put on by the economic development of the city.
Entering the ballroom of the beautiful conference center, it was wonderful to see 300 chairs perfectly set and ready for a big event the following day.
Sound check lasted 4 hours that evening due to a glitch out of everyone’s control, but I was grateful to be working with an AV Team who lives The Promise and kept at it, cheerfully, until we came up with solutions to tricky challenges.
I barely slept in my comfy Marriott hotel room bed, as I tossed and turned over an entirely new segment regarding The Promise Institute and our work in Kenya I would be presenting. Yes, we are finally beginning to book expeditions in conjunction with the incredible organization 100 Humanitarians, all under the banner of The Promise Impact, and I was overthinking how I would say everything.
The life of The Speaker! hahaha
Arriving 2 hours before attendees, we completed the sound check and all was set.
And then we waited for the room to fill.
Clock ticking down to go time, 300 seats still sat empty…
10 minutes before I was to begin my 8:30 AM presentation, the event planner came up to me and was as confused as I was with the turn-out. This event, having been promoted well throughout the region, didn’t appear to have anyone coming!
I offered to wait an hour or two if that was needed, in order to see if people were just running late.
The client said thank you for your willingness to be flexible, considered my offer, ran the thought by a few team members, and then determined they needed to stick to the day’s schedule, with breakouts, vendors, and food all waiting their turn.
Introduced to the stage, with apologies from the wonderful event planner embarrassed due to the amount of people in my audience that morning, I stepped into the spotlight and saw:
7 people staring back at me in a 300 seat ballroom!
(I believe they were the EXPO vendors that had been asked to fill in the front section…)
As I took the mic, I addressed the obvious right away –
“My friends, I’d like to Thank You for being here. And I truly do, Thank YOU.
Years ago, I performed at an amphitheater that was filled to capacity at 3,000 attendees! It was incredible!
And so we decided we could do the same in an adjacent city the next year, the demand was so high, and we figured we’d have the same turn-out as the year before.
At that event, we were stunned that only a couple hundred attended, compared to the thousands we expected.
After the show I asked my Mom – who always supports me and is amazing – how she felt I did despite the challenge of not performing to a full house, of which I am accustomed.
She stated the following to me that changed my perspective forever on every performance:
“Son, you were wonderful as always in your performance. However, you mentioned multiple times how disappointed you were that it wasn’t sold-out, and it seemed you were upset with us as an audience.
My son, NEVER punish those who show up. Never appear disappointed to those who support you. Never make them feel “less than” for those who didn’t come.”
And so, my friends in this audience today – it appears the challenges we face in the pandemic, the hesitancy of attendees to participate and show up, and putting on an event for the public at this time has perhaps won out.
That means today, because of my Mom, you’re in for it!
My Performance Promise to you is that all 7 of you are about to enjoy a performance and presentation as if 10,000 were in front of me, and I am SO, SO grateful you are here and showed up.
You are the most important people to me, and I can only Thank You properly by giving you the most and best I’ve got.
And of course, you can leave here at the end of the day and tell all your friends and peers they missed out on the best presentation you’ve ever seen!
Let’s get started.”
By the time my presentation was over there may have been 30-40 in the room. And you could tell, there was a good amount of laughter that could be heard, which was nice after going 14 months without hearing any from my Zoom Virtual Home Studio.
Why would I share this “tragic” experience with you?
Social media, public persona, the perception that all is perfect, simple, and smooth is a lie.
This one was tough. Not just for my ego and hopes to showcase in front of potential clients for my new business endeavors, but especially tough on the event planner, expo vendors, and everyone involved who was hoping for a successfully attended event.
Events are coming back, and some will succeed, and some will be ill-timed.
What is important is that we Keep The Promise To The Audience who shows up.
No matter how hurt our pride might be, no matter how terrible it looks from any perspective…we give 100% because that is what people who LIVE The Promise do.
I had to talk myself into sharing this story in a blog post because none of this “looks good”.
I’m not worried about looking good at this point, I’m focused on making a difference.
And when I saw the local paper published this story and talked about the reality of the situation, then I realized they weren’t hiding it, so why should I?
Here’s the STORY if you want to check it out.
I have to applaud the event team, vendors, all involved in this event:
They Kept The Promise to remain Positive even when all did not go as one would hope. I like them even more for that.
Your Promise Prompt This Week –
Share in the Comments about an experience you’ve had recently where the expectation wasn’t met, yet you still delivered despite the odds, inconvenience, or challenge, because you always show up and Keep The Promise!
~ Jason Hewlett
* The Promise Institute Co-Founder
* Promise Culture Keynote Speaker
* Speaker Hall of Fame
Author of “The Promise To The One”