When scheduling either an actual or a self-anointed VIP to come to your party and speak as a special guest, the thing you have to remember is they’re usually doing you a favor. In most cases there’s nothing that requires them to show up – and even less that forces them to have a speaking roll. Usually they do it because they think they might have something of interest to say to the other guests at your party.
When you start making their life difficult – like by changing the time they’re scheduled to speak approximately 347 times in three weeks, they become less inclined to do you this favor. In fact they might become downright belligerent and decide showing up for your party is just more of a pain in the ass than it’s worth.
So here’s the thing, if you have your heart set on having a very special guest make an appearance at your very special party, try to pretend, even if it’s just for this one moment, that you’re not the second coming of the Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight. It would make your life and theirs ever so much easier.
1. Being filler. So a funny thing about events is that when you plan one that people are interested in, they tend to show up. When you plan an all day snoozefest, they tend to avoid it if they can. The easy solution to this problem is just to declare the snoozefest a designated place of duty for the day and *poof* you have an instant packed house. The problem of course, is even though you can mandate that people be somewhere in body, you certainly can’t force them to be present in mind or spirit. So instead of working my own projects – and tending to my own nearly sold out event – I get to be filler. Because a 2/3 empty auditorium looks bad… and not looking bad is far more important than actually doing good.
2. I’ve spent the week basically regurgitating the same seven or eight points for people who either didn’t bother to read the source material or were incapable of understanding it. Since many of these people have fancy titles like CEO, Vice President of Whatever, Owner, and Doctor, I have to wonder who exactly is out there keeping the lights on in the business community. I’m sure they’re all very busy, very important people, but a bit of basic reading and comprehension really doesn’t feel like too much to expect… and yet it is.
3. A monopoly on good ideas. Just because someone has a star on their uniform (you know, like the Texaco man), we really owe it to ourselves not to fall into the trap of assuming that he or she is the font of truth and all good ideas. No one, not even the high and the mighty have a monopoly on good ideas. Telling truth to power is hard work. It demands personal courage, but if no one else in the room is brave enough to correct the man in the big chair when he insists the grass is purple and the sky is green, we’re not doing anyone, including ourselves, any favors.
I could write another post about today’s dealings with even more corporate “executive” types who are challenged with reading the English language. There’s a fair chance I could turn that into the story of the week. I’ll spare us all of that unhappiness, though.
Instead, let me tell you a little tale about scheduling… specifically any effort you may be tempted to make to negotiate, coordinate, synchronize, or otherwise cause agreement with half a dozen organizations about the event schedule. During that process you’re going to have a moment when all seems right with the world, when all parties have agreed and the two-month effort to reach that agreement feels like it might almost have been worth it.
That right there is the moment when at least one major moving part is going to utterly and completely fail and threaten to drag the entire effort back to the beginning. It’s the moment when VIP Speaker #1 sends you an email effectively saying, “Yeah, I know we all agreed to this, but even VIP-ier people in Arlington want me, VIP Speaker #2 and VIP Speaker #3 to be there for some other random video conference that we can’t possibly change the time of to accommodate the 500 people we’re going to have sitting three hundred yards away in our own venue.”
No problem, I’m utterly ecstatic to chuck out the entire day’s schedule. I look forward to begging, pleading, and threatening everyone we’ve finally gotten in line and having the outstanding opportunity to rework the damned thing for the 83rd time in the last couple of months. It’s absolutely my pleasure.