The Broken AV Promise


This selfie was taken an hour before one of the worst events of my career, which happened a few weeks ago.

Join me, for a most joyful recounting of such an experience! LOL

Before every event I talk with the AV Team.

AV stands for “Audio Visual”, and they are my lifeline to a successful presentation, as they provide essentials such as microphone, sound system, lighting, all connections for laptop, etc.

I called the AV team a few days prior to the date.

We had worked together before.

The lead guy promised me he would have everything we discussed.

I even mentioned how the “house sound system” in the event location was insufficient even for someone making announcements. It is infamously bad, as I had been there a few months before.

He agreed.

I arrived 4 hours before my speech (an hour before guests arrived).

As I entered the building I noticed there were no speakers on stands, no microphones, no lighting, not one thing we had discussed that I needed.

He approached me and said, “I decided we could make it work with the house sound”.  

I assured him that it wouldn’t work.

He insisted I should do a sound check regardless.

So I did.

And it sounded just as I suspected – awful and insufficient, even in an empty room with no attendees.

The location manager ran up, concerned, and demanded, “You’re not really going to have Jason Hewlett go through our house sound, are you? You know it won’t be able to support what he needs to do, since he’ll be singing Rock n’ Roll level music during his speech…” 

The AV guy assured us it would work.

The location manager handed me the mic and said good luck, and apologized up front for the instability of the system, which is known for cutting out and failing.

There was not enough time for me to desperately go and rent a sound system nearby, as attendees were already arriving, and so I said to the AV guy, “Sir, you promised me you would provide what we agreed upon, and you broke that promise. I want you to know you’re about to watch a train wreck and I’m sorry you’ve chosen to do this to me and your audience. But, we’ll get through this together, I guess.” 

He assured me it would be fine.

I went to the “green room”, sat in the chair, and took a selfie as I meditated prior to knowing I was headed to the gallows.

Once I was introduced it was apparent the sound system had already worn out during the dinner speeches, announcements, and awards.

Within 20 minutes of my taking the stage, the entire sound system stopped working overall.

A room full of $200 per plate attendees for a fundraiser sat wondering what I would do.

Now this was MY problem.

I did the presentation acappella and without a mic.  Raising my voice, I proved I could get through this, and what had already gone well now became full theater of physicality and improvisation.

A room of more than 200 people leaned in with their tuxes and gowns to listen, laugh, and watch me walk a tightrope, do an interpretive dance of performance that should never have to be seen at any type of event, as I filled time regaling with stories of sound systems gone bad in my past, while location manager went scrambling, with AV guy hiding in the corner, to figure out if there was another mic or solution they could use.

By the end of my hour the standing ovation I received was perhaps charitable from a sympathetic audience, having just watched a bird attempt to fly in a cage with clipped wings while being shot at.

AV guy slithered into the darkness, never to be seen again.

I’m not joking. I think he drove away before I could chase him down the street.

Location manager apologized profusely, but had saved the day by resetting the system and getting me a corded mic after 10 minutes of my suffering on stage without audio visual support. She kept the promise and helped me in my desperate situation, for which I always be grateful and remember her kindness.

I share this harrowing tale only because I knew I was dead before I began, but my Promise was to show up, deliver what I had promised to deliver, and to rely upon the promises of others to help me fulfill that promise.

I was had.

I was lied to.

It was one of the only times in a long while this has happened, it was in a venue a few miles from my home, and with a client I had (perhaps mistakenly) donated the presentation to since they were doing a fundraiser for an educational/charitable cause.

Due to my charity they must have figured they’d cut a few more costs by cutting corners, breaking promises to me, and saving money on renting the AV they promised… and it cost everyone.

The Broken AV Promise is just one example of many that can happen to any of us.

Sure, I could have been more prepared and showed up with a sound system in my back pocket just in case…but I had been assured it would be provided, since it always would be for every event.

But this time it wasn’t.

I’d hate to imagine I’ve ever been the one breaking the promise to this extent, as an outright lie, and I’m sure it’s happened, and that’s something I strive never to do.

My question for you is: Which side of the promise are you on when everyone is relying on you?



~ Jason Hewlett

Husband, Father, Writer, Mentor, Hiker

  • Speaker Hall of Fame * Award-Winning Entertainer * Coach & Mentor
  • World’s Only Keynote Speaker utilizing entertainment, musical impressions, and comedy to Create Legendary Leadership through the Power of Commitment
  • Author of “The Promise To The One”

Share this post

19 thoughts on “The Broken AV Promise”

  1. Sounds like a TERRIBLE experience.
    I think thanks to your God-given gifts and experience, you made it a positive experience for the participants.
    Your ending question is powerful and thought-provoking.
    Sending many blessings, Louise

  2. Ironically, I had a very similar AV broken promise two weeks ago. I was leading the Empowering Greatness Leadership Experience, my own branded leadership training. Previous experiences at this venue highlighted challenges with the house system. I had been assured these issue had been fixed.

    The sound check was decent so I moved ahead. Unfortunately, barely 60 seconds into my opening story a large squelch shattered the moment. Five minutes of behind the scenes work failed to solve the problem.

    While the AV promise to me was broken, I knew my audience expected me to deliver on my promise to them.

    That I did, acappella, and by moving through the small room. I refused to allow a technical hiccup to disrupt my ability to create a powerful experience.

    That’s the power of my promise.

    1. Jason Hewlett

      Wow Les, it’s amazing how this can happen to all of us. Well done on handling it so well.

  3. I’m so sorry this happened, but you handled it in the way a true professional would. Secondly, I know your audience appreciated your delivering your max effort in light of the events. I’ve had that happen to me once or twice, and in a similar fashion, I reminded myself that while I couldn’t control what happened by the AV staff, I could control my delivery so I gave it my all. That was my promise, and I left knowing I did my very best to bring the message to the audience.

    I recently heard a podcast, and I loved the phrase shared by the individual being interviewed. She said, “Be a product of your choices, not a victim of your circumstances”. I believe that is the promise on which each of us as presenters, performers, and responsible people are expected to deliver.

    Thanks for sharing your story, and clearly, “You performed as a product of your choices”, and I know it was incredible!

    1. Outstanding quotation, Laura. “Be a product of your choices, not a victim of your circumstances.” Thank you! I tried to find the original author and soon discovered that it was written by the most famous person we all know: The author? Unknown. I’m going to change my name to “Unknown.” Then I will be as famous as Jason Hewlett!

  4. Betty Jo Western

    This makes Howard’s stomach turn into knots! What a Mess! We will
    Not do that do you or anyone else! We will always do our best to keep the Promise! Thanks for the excellent reminders and
    Thought provoking posts!

    1. Jason Hewlett

      You and Howard were always the ultimate in reliability, professionalism, and keeping The Promise. I was always so grateful to know your family was running things, as I knew I was in good hands.

  5. I’m sorry this happened to you! But honestly, if anyone could make the best of a terrible situation it is YOU! I love that you keep The Promise in every circumstance, and are so open and raw about your experiences! Sure helps the rest of us remember what and how we are striving to achieve.

    1. I have no idea. I speak about Promises, so that’s kind of a subject they know very little about…LOL! My first political joke in years!

  6. You made the most of it but I know exactly how you feel bad AV. I had similar situation a couple of weeks ago and your stomach just drops. I feel you and I’m always happy to be a resource with access to many audio guys across this country.

    1. I appreciate you my friend. Yes sir, this one was too close to make the call to bring in reinforcements with the audience arriving already, but I’m grateful to know you and others would come to the rescue.

  7. Man, I can’t believe that happened to you right before we chatted recently. What a nightmare. That reminds me of the event I had where I arrived to find out no one had provided the piano. HELLO! Most basic thing needed for a piano concert, and due to a number of broken promises, I ended up giving a concert to 700 people on an out-of-tune piano with a broken pedal, brought from someone’s mother in law’s house, since the promoter had failed to provide the most basic item in my rider.

    That was almost six years ago and I’ve never had anything like that happen since (and of course would never work with that promoter again)…but man it’s so crazy when things like that happen.

    1. Oh my goodness, I forgot about that happening to you. That sounds too crazy to be true. How is that even possible? Well, it is folks! Crazy!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest Tweet