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Rising Above the Storm

Rising Above the Storm

Nov. 15, 2012, Vol. 10, Issue 22

As the devastation of hurricane Sandy sweeps across our TV screens almost 3 weeks after the event, my heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to all of you who were impacted.

Several of our speakers in the area were without power for days. Moreover, the loss of homes and life rips into the psychic fabric of our lives as we all experience the uncertainty of life as well as the pain of friends, relatives, and fellow Americans. And survival – it is relative, isn’t it?  For, as shattering as this storm was to those it affected, we are always mindful of the people who are daily experiencing shattering medical diagnoses.

In fifteen years of event scheduling, I’d never had a cancellation due to weather . . . until Sandy. In fact my client, Marcia Anderson of the George Bray Cancer Center in New Britain, CT, had a warning that there was “a perfect storm” brewing almost a week in advance of her sold out breast cancer survivors event, which was originally scheduled for Oct. 30. In the early stage, we were chatting back and forth about how the television weather people over-dramatize these things. There, because they had a freak snowstorm right before Halloween last year, and here, because, rain or “no rain,” the weather is always top news, and snow, that is major news!

Fortunately, the speaker they selected for this year, Susan Sparks, is located in New York City, just a train ride away, so we didn’t have to worry about possible flight cancellations, just Amtrak.

As meeting planners, you well know that canceling and re-scheduling an event is like tripling the job of putting it on in the first place. In continuous cell phone conversations among all of the decision-makers, nevertheless, it became apparent over the weekend that the prudent thing to do was postpone the event for a week. Fortunately, Susan was available, as was the location, so Marcia could re-schedule the event for Nov. 8. Then the huge job of notifying everyone who had registered began. And although the Nor’easter that followed threatened another cancellation, this time the show went on — successfully.

Living in Manhattan, Susan lost her electricity for almost a week, but every day she negotiated nine flights of stairs several times in the dark — as well as all of the other inconveniences of a power outage — to get to a coffee shop with internet access, so that she could stay in communication with Marcia and me.

So I thought it appropriate, in this issue, to share Susan’s lessons learned from the hurricane that swallowed a nor’easter behind a cold front during a high tide under a full moon . .  (her words).

Her talents as a comedian, lawyer, and pastor, all come into play in this blog post, and it illustrates how a sense of humor is totally rational, necessary, and even life-saving in extraordinary circumstances.


Lessons from the hurricane that swallowed a nor’easter behind a cold front during a high tide under a full moon. . .

by Susan Sparks

George Clooney and his Perfect Storm had nothing on the recent hurricane. Sandy blasted into Manhattan (and Jersey and all points NE) like Rielle Hunter pursuing a memoir advance. People lost power and water for days, many lost their homes, some even their lives. Our heartfelt prayers go out to them.

On a personal note, I would like to share these few modest lessons gleaned after spending a week climbing down nine flights of stairs in the pitch black to find food, water and power.  Perhaps they will help you in your next crisis:

1. Cold hotdogs and warm Chardonnay make a perfectly fine dinner.

2. No matter how much force you exert, you cannot make AA batteries fit into a AAA flashlight.

3. Candlelight is better than any combo of Retin-A, Crème de la Mer and Botox.

4. Honey Boo Boo has nothing on a quiet night reading Willa Cather and listening to Gershwin (assuming you have the right batteries).

5. Never underestimate the power of flush toilets.

6. Carrying a cup of hot coffee through streets where there is no power can cause an immediate riot

7. It’s never a good idea to go for a walk to “see the hurricane.”

8. Contrary to Scandinavian wisdom, showering with cold water is not effective.

9. Going to bed when it’s dark and getting up when it’s light is not as dumb as it sounds and most importantly …

10. Yes, it’s true: you can brush your teeth with bottled margarita mix.


Happy Ending

After all of the uncertainty leading up to the event at George Bray Cancer Center, Marcia was more than happy with the outcome. As she wrote in her follow-up, “Susan was a true delight and brought many smiles and much needed laughter to all. She is a class act — extremely poised and gracious. She greeted each guest with such warmth and kindness, thanking each before dinner, for coming tonight. Watching the room during her keynote I saw nothing but happiness on every face. She managed to tune in and connect with everyone in the room. It was a very happy and satisfying event.”

And Susan was surprised and delighted by Marcia’s room decorations. Tuning in to Susan’s trademark cowgirl boots, Marcia designed and made fall centerpieces featuring miniature resin boots, mini-straw bales, and baby pumpkins — creating a very festive atmosphere. These photos illustrate that there are options other than pink for breast cancer events! Marcia also created a fun quiz for the participants, and the person with the most points at each table got to take the centerpiece home.

Of course these are two wonderful people who recognize the importance of being there for people in the face of adversity.  I have been blessed with speakers who have kept their dates, regardless of storms, travel challenges, and even 9/11. I’ve known my speakers to turn around when turned away at the airport, rent a car and drive long hours to make an engagement. 9/11, however, presented a whole new set of barriers to be overcome, as the speaker, Deborah Kern, was in Austin, TX, and the engagement on the Saturday following 9/11 was in Louisville, KY.  The meeting planner was adamant that the event go on; she thought it was important for the community. And Deb pretty much moved heaven and earth to get there. It’s a great story and you can read it here.

That kind of dedication comes from deep integrity and a devotion to our clients and the causes you represent. I would like to recognize that quality in all my speakers every chance I get, and I further want to recognize the meeting planners who risk so much and do twice the work when a disaster upsets their long-laid plans. We owe it to you to be there and support you every way we can.

So, it’s Thanksgiving and I’m grateful for happy endings, and so much more. Until next time, I hope you’re warm, dry, safe and sound. Enjoy a day of gratitude with family and friends next Thursday, for your well being and those you love.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Yours truly,


For Your Well Being is published bi-weekly. We bring you insider speaker reports, exclusive stories about special events around the country, meeting planner tips, and fun stuff from the worlds of health and well being. Be well and be in the know!

The Speak Well Being Group is a specialized speakers bureau, focusing on speakers for hospital-sponsored community events, healthcare organizations, nurses, conferences and women’s groups. Our speakers are hand-selected — they are not only experts in their fields, they connect with their audiences and deliver life-changing information, often with plenty of humor and empathy.

Finding the perfect keynote speaker for your special event or conference is my personal passion, not just once, but year after year. It brings me great joy to know that your audience was delighted and moved by the speaker we selected together. I’m committed to making the process easy, pleasant and fun.


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