When You Are Under-Utilized

I don’t EVER recall in my career being hired to NOT:

  1. Be Funny
  2. Sing
  3. Do Impressions
  4. Do Parodies
  5. Share a Message

They just wanted me to bring people to stage, introduce their needs clearly, and keep it all on time.

That’s it!

Have you ever been under-utilized? 

This is a first of its kind experience for me, where I was hired to not do anything I’m known and renowned for, and instead to just read from a Teleprompter for 3 days!

This story is CRAZY…perhaps unfathomable…to everyone I have shared it with.

Enjoy!

~

I am seated backstage this very moment with enough time to write a complete blog while I am on call and at an event.

That is rare.

In 12 hours today, and 5 tomorrow, I will take the stage at least 30 times over this day and a half, totaling less than 15 minutes of total “on stage work”.

This is my first HUGE production event back to “normal” (besides the temp checks, masks, social distance signs on chairs, and having to take a COVID test and passing as negative to get in), and there are nearly 1,000 people here in this massive ballroom with almost 3,000 chairs set up.

The Client booked me half a year ago to be Emcee.  Thrilled with the work (even though, as of this date, I’m not accepting Emcee jobs anymore and just doing Keynotes), I jumped at the opportunity, booked the contract, and the date was moved a few times until it landed on this moment, Spring 2021.

On our first conference call, the getting-to-know-you, after signing contracts, I had a most unique experience.

Usually, the Client is excited to integrate my many talents throughout their event and want to talk through when and where I will sing, do impressions, have a comedy segment (or 10), share some or all of The Promise Keynote, as well as act as Emcee in the traditional ways: bringing people to stage, being the common thread of the event, and running awards.

Being Emcee usually entails me almost working myself to exhaustion over 3 days of running around from 6am-midnight, creating bits, saving the day with things the client forgets, and filling in as Keynote and Entertainment show (having done so many times through the years for celebrities who didn’t show up, airplanes that couldn’t get out of bad weather, even once when a band member of a headlining act had a heart attack from a near drug overdose backstage – “Jason!  Kill some time.  Drummer needs to be revived!”  True story.).

I used to LOVE doing Emcee work, as clients would have me back year after year as a kind of “Event Insurance”, since they knew I could handle pretty much anything, and would eventually not even bother hiring a Keynote or evening Entertainment, and just have me do it, on top of Emcee work.

Now, in the Emcee role, whenever hired for a new Client, I expect the same, since that is my Signature Move, being known and solely hired because I am a Triple-Threat: Emcee, Speaker, Entertainer (and thus my reason to not take these jobs anymore, except once in a blue moon – or at least, every pandemic or so).

As the call began, I just listened to what they needed me to do, expecting us to craft and create the show-flow together while integrating my performance pieces.

Having written their script out, they asked if I preferred bullet points to teleprompter, to which I answered either is fine, but usually I just ad-lib a ton because I have so much freedom and time to fill, between singing, audience interaction pieces, motivational stories, etc, it leaves things free-flowing.

I asked, “So, do you want to give me 5-minutes to open with a few great music numbers, and then like 10-minutes later with some comedy, and then I can do some of The Promise message and a powerful story for 7-minutes…”  

I saw the furrowed eyebrows of the client and production team staring back at me.

“What do you mean by ‘doing music and singing’?  Why would you do that?” they asked.

I was surprised, because usually that’s one of the only reasons I’m hired.  It’s what I’m known for.  It’s what makes me different.

I responded, “Oh, well, if there’s not time for that then we can just mix in some of my comedy, impressions, and the funny stuff to keep things light throughout the day whenever you need…” (as I did my rabbit nose wiggle – to no laughs).

I could feel the tension through the Zoom call screen.

They replied, “To be honest, this scripting we have is pretty much exactly as we need it, to the second, and there’s not any time to have you do comedy, or music, and that’s actually not what we want or need.  We just need you to Emcee and introduce our people and keep things on time.  Does that make sense?”

Deer in the headlights on my end.

I don’t EVER recall in my career being hired to NOT:

  1. Be Funny
  2. Sing
  3. Do Impressions
  4. Do Parodies
  5. Share a Message

They just wanted me to bring people to stage, introduce their needs clearly, and keep it all on time.

That’s it!

Once I realized my place, and that they’d clearly made up their minds, I said, “Of course, happy to do whatever you need!”

I then tried to salvage anything of my talents for them to possibly partake of my promise to the world to bring all that I have to offer – at least it might help me win over the audience to enjoying my time on their stage:

“So, I have an idea.  What if we at least have my iPod set up in case something happens last minute and you need me to fill in for someone, say your Keynote Speaker falls ill, I can fill in for them,” I suggested.

“Why would the Keynote not be there?  We have everything planned out perfectly and all of our shows are timed to the minute.  It will go exactly as we have it planned.  And what do you mean that you can be the Speaker?” they asked, as if I were trying to hijack the event.

Clearly, they know very little about me, my innocent yet helpful intentions, my capabilities, my…normal.

I lobbed a little accolade about myself, “Well, I’m one of the youngest in the Speaker Hall of Fame, and have performed in every Casino in Las Vegas, usually I am asked to Emcee and do more than introductions only…”

They searched for what to say.  I could SEE IT!

“Ok, if you want to have your iPod plugged in…we guess that’s fine, but…why again, for what purpose?” they asked quizzically.

I said, “Well, one time, the Keynote Speaker’s helicopter didn’t land in time, and while I was introducing him on stage the stage manager needed me to stretch the time…I did 45-minutes of my Keynote before their celebrity Speaker, Chuck Norris, showed up.” 

The client looked back at me, blinked, and said, “Our Keynotes will be on site, we are good, but if you want to set up your iPod that’s fine.”

~

Ladies & Gentlemen – This has NEVER happened to me before.

No music.

No comedy.

No impressions.

No dancing.

No ad-libbing.

No winging it.

They didn’t event want one bit of it.

Not one Jason Hewlett Signature Move.

REALLY glad I didn’t accidentally throw a Raptor face at them or I’d have been fired on the spot.

“Stick to the Script & Keep us on Time” were my full orders.

I finally accepted, acknowledged, and allowed myself to step fully into my needed roll.

I said, “I know exactly what you need me to do.  Happy to serve any way you want to utilize me.”  

And here I am…

Backstage at an event where perhaps my 75th talent down the list of my Top 100:

– READING a TELEPROMPTER –

is the only talent this client wants or needs from me.

Hey!  It’s a gig and a chance to get back on stage and be a part of a cool event!

And let me tell you: This Client is dialed in!  They have it all covered.  In fact, I felt foolish setting up my iPod the first day as I knew it would never be needed.

But – to their credit, and without belittling me – they acknowledged that it seemed important to me, so if I needed the iPod near the stage and plugged in, then that’s fine…

All I could hear in my head was:

“Is this good, little emcee fella?  Do you like your iPod here?  Anything else?  

How about a clicker?  Want to touch a clicker?  That’s a neat thing our real speakers get to do….how about a green room?  Have you seen a green room before, young man?  It’s not actually green, we just call it that because that’s important to people backstage.  THIS is a backstage!  Have you ever seen a backstage before, little buddy?”   

Hahahahaha.

The Client didn’t say that, I just felt that way because well –

I’ve NEVER done a gig without music, singing, comedy, voices, stories, any bits, my routines, or my iPod, and just like Gene Wilder in the original movie version of The Producers, “Gimme my Blue BLANKEEEEE!”.

 

 

So it was a weird thing to not have my usual level of being needed at this one.

Now I have finally done a gig without my iPod, without doing one voice, one song, one story, one moment that was special to win over the crowd with my uniqueness.

The equivalent of my blue blanket.

And yes, they are paying me handsomely to do my 75th best talent, sans iPod.

Ok.

Some might argue – “You’ve broken a Promise to Yourself in taking that gig!”

To which I would retort – “I am THRILLED to do anything that is not unethical for a client who needs whatever services they feel I can provide!  Even if, when, and most certainly, this isn’t the best use of my gifts, as long as they get what they feel is worth paying for and contracting, and I know I can deliver, then let’s do it!” 

~

Have you ever been in a situation like this?

Have you ever been completely under-utilized in your work?  On the team?  I mean, the only time I would love to be under-utilized might be sometimes at church and a lot of times at home!  LOL.

I believe everyone has felt to some extent or another, whether it’s a new project, an old system/process, or an opportunity to serve, that we have ideas, talents, intelligence to do more, and heavens to betsy we are being under-utilized!

The Promise is to:

  1. Do what is needed for the role as determined by the Leader/Client
  2. Make sure they know you have more talents, gifts, ideas, skills that are available to be utilized
  3. Be ok, and confident enough, in said role, to be quiet and do the job you are asked to do, at your highest level of ability

Truth is this:

I am in NO WAY a GREAT Emcee without all those other things I can do in my back pocket.

I am good, capable, and what is needed to fill a role in this capacity.  Good enough to be paid to do it, as most people are not comfortable on a stage with 1,000 eyeballs on you.

I wish there was time and desire for me to do more, which would help me win the crowd over with music or comedy, and I really feel would make this a more fun event for the attendees…but it is literally not needed, wanted, or thought of as an asset in this situation.

To me, that’s as disturbing as choosing to go on a joyride on a tricycle when you have a Lamborghini in the garage…but also, oddly…refreshing.

When was the last time I just got to be completely dialed in to exactly what the client needs, and provided, and desired, nothing more of my improv, creativity, personality, or capability?

I have added a few touches here and there, a quick quip, a cliff-notes story that was 15-seconds, instead of some of my more laborious and long-winded moments on stage when introducing a theme, segment or person.

Instead, today it’s: ENTER * Read what’s there with flair! * EXIT

There will always be times we have more to offer, something to say in the meeting, a moment or engagement that left us saying to our colleagues, “Man, if they only knew how many great ideas I have…”

The secrets of The Promise, when we find ourselves in this position, are as follows:

  1. Know Your Role
  2. Be 100% Dialed In and Focused to Be Awesome
  3. Buy-In to The Vision of The Leader/Team/Client
  4. Be Incredibly Prepared
  5. Offer Any Insights to the Role that will Enhance your Delivery
  6. Be Ready at Any Moment to Offer More if it’s Needed
  7. Don’t Complain
  8. Be Grateful for The Work
  9. Don’t Promote All They’re Missing Within the Organization or Experience
  10. Write in Your Journal Your Thoughts & Feelings

This has been a powerful experience for me and I’m very grateful for it.

From what I understand, the client, and next to no one in the audience have ever seen my web site, know my history, read my book, or know anything about me other than that I am a person who is good on stage.

What this has proven to me is that there is a place for all of our talents, even when we don’t place them at the top of our list of what we offer, it very well may be the TOP of the list of what your Client needs!

“One man’s garbage is another man’s treasure!”  (Ok, maybe that’s not the best quote for this post, but it kind of dementedly fits, too. )

Funny enough, I did receive a message on TWITTER in the middle of the first of my 2 days on stage.  I guess I have a “fan” here – or, see: had!  He tagged me and, as if he were yelling in a TWEET, wrote the following, along with my best reply to at least acknowledge his question and still honor the client:

 

And for those of you that are reading this entire article and completely confused as to why it’s an article at all – meaning: you are ALWAYS under-utilized and FINE with it!

Well, I’m curious about your process and frame of mind in doing your work consistently in this realm, as for me it’s been difficult, and I’m sure there are many sides to the coin.

I really PREFER to share as many gifts & talents, skills & Signature Moves as I possibly can in every performance…and I’m bummed when that’s not needed or wanted!

But, since it’s not, I am doing what has been instructed.

Most importantly, we need to always Keep the Promise in every role we find ourselves in!

 

~ Jason Hewlett

The Promise Institute Co-Founder

Promise Culture Keynote Speaker

* Speaker Hall of Fame

Author of “The Promise To The One”

jasonhewlett.com

 

 

 

 

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

6 thoughts on “When You Are Under-Utilized”

  1. Too bad… their loss! However, keep the music, impressions, messages and comedy coming… 99.9% of us enjoy and learn from them!

    1. Thank you Dave! I really enjoy using my talents and skills, and grateful for those that enjoy them as well!

    1. Thank you Louise for such a kind comment. I’ll be honest, I was an ok Emcee in this capacity, but would have been 100x better utilizing my actual gifts. However, I hope the client was happy.

    1. Pretty wild and weird event! But grateful for another story to share! Thank you for the kind words.

Leave a Comment

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

Latest Tweet