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Saving the Meeting with Laughter

Jan. 22, 2016

Vol.14, Issue 1

After a whirlwind holiday season, and now getting beyond the New Years resolution stage, I am glad to be returning to some sense of normalcy. For me that means back to business and a somewhat regular schedule. After my hip replacement in September, I’m back to yoga three early mornings a week. In that space, I’m loving noticing what I can do that I couldn’t before surgery, and unhappy about what’s still lacking. Yet I celebrate every step in the right direction. Patience, patience, patience . . . healing is a process.

Also, I have a new MacBook Pro, and acclimating to its wonderful ability to know what I’m writing . . . . (!) is still a work in progress. I’m thinking of putting a disclaimer in my emails. While I’ve had the automatic spelling correction function (the computer just put “funky” in there for function), on my iPhone and iPad, this advantage (really?) is new on the computer itself, so I’m learning to proofread carefully!

So I myself also need the message in “Saving the Meeting with Laughter,” the story I’m sharing with you today. It’s a great example of how a skilled professional speaker can save the day when there’s a bump in the road in the midst of your event.


Mack Dryden:

Saving the Day with Laughter

Providence Regional Cancer Center was looking for a creative way to attract men and women to an event showcasing their new da Vinci surgical robot. They needed to give a couple of doctors some time on the platform to talk about the recent investment in one at Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia.

Now you know — if you’ve ever planned (or attended) a program with physician speakers — that they can be very information (and slide) heavy — and wordy. Good information, but you have to filter a lot.

What to do to lighten up the program, and to create some buzz to attract a crowd? Book a comedian, of course. They chose Mack DrydenMack Dryden, who just may be the funniest two-time cancer survivor in the country. Little did they know, until the night of the event, what a great choice he would be. Luckily, they decided to have him emcee the event, as well as present his entertaining program. When the glitch occurred, they had the right man in the right spot. Here’s how it happened.

Attract a crowd they did — 360 supporters showed up for the evening at the Great Wolf Lodge. The attractive “Learning Through Laughter” flyer opened with the come-on, “A comedian, a robot, two Providence doctors and Rotarians walk into a lodge . . .” So where did the Rotarian angle come from? That would be a member of the Centralia Rotary, Arnie Guenther, himself a prostate cancer survivor who had had da Vinci robot-assisted surgery to remove his prostate three years ago. He wanted to do something to raise awareness for the disease. As Rotary is an organization that believes in giving back to the community, it was a natural choice to work that avenue.

Noting that men don’t normally want to talk about health issues like prostate cancer, Guenther wanted to promote education and give his experience a positive spin. After two successful Rotary awareness events, he got in touch with Chris Thomas, public relations manager at Providence Southwest region, and they partnered up for this third event.

The da Vinci Surgical System was on display in the room. Two doctors were scheduled to give detailed presentations. The first was informative and interesting (I guess I haven’t mentioned that my husband and I were at the event, so this is a first-hand report!) Unfortunately, the second doctor was delayed in traffic, and his slides had to be loaded on stage in the midst of the program. They didn’t quite load into the computer right. Everything could have ground to a halt.

That’s where the wisdom of including a superb speaker in the program emerged. Mack’s professionalism and humor kept everything flowing. As emcee, he had already been onstage doing introductions and segues between the program segments, and the audience was loving him. So when the slide loading challenge came up, he just kept on performing.

“When it took 7 minutes for our doctor’s slides to load, Mack saved the day with his humor and flexibility,” said Chris Thomas, public relations manager for Providence. Mack had more than enough material from his comedy routines to keep the audience in stitches the full time. No one was troubled by the delay, they were all laughing too hard.

“We can’t say enough about how easy it was to work with Mack and how much he brought to our event,” he continued. “We heard dozens of comments from the audience about how quickly the event seemed to go, and that definitely is attributed to Mack and his keeping the energy in the room and facilitating transitions between the various parts of the program.”

Mack wrapped up the event on a high note with his most popular program, “Laugh to the Top: A Hilarious Guide to Achieving Your Goals.”  Sharing his life adventures that included plenty of adversity, even before dealing with both testicular cancer and cancer on the back of his eye, Mack took the audience on a roller coaster ride — showing that anything can be achieved through small steps.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” Mack said, recounting a Lao Tzu quote. “Even when you fall on your face, you’re still moving forward.”

Comedy and cancer don’t normally mix, but Mack Dryden’s ability to maintain a sense of humor in the face of cancer inspired cancer patients, their families, their friends and the entire community that night – and made the event planners, the doctors, the Rotarians and everyone else who walked into that lodge glad they had come. That’s what a great speaker can bring to your program – assurance that it will go well for your audience, even when the unexpected occurs. To learn more about Mack and to preview some of his antics via video, visit his page on our website and give us a call at 503-699-5031 to check his availability.


On the Horizon in 2016

I don’t do resolutions, but I certainly have intentions about what I want for my life this year. There’s nothing like the holidays to give me a big old case of overwhelm, and this year we celebrated a big birthday for my husband, which meant lots of family visiting us from shortly after Thanksgiving until the New Year. That was a lot of family dinners! It was fun, and tiring. And so, being acutely aware of overwhelm, I’m starting the year off with the mindset of thinking before I commit, and thinking before I click — especially when it comes to free online courses! That means taking the time to consider how I want to spend my time, so there’s less frustration, less overwhelm, and more time to truly enjoy the choices I make. Much as I’d like to, I can’t do it all, at least all at the same time.

Until next time, laugh in the face of surprises, make meaningful choices, and take care of yourself for your well being and those you love.

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 while bringing them life-changing information, smiles of recognition and ultimately a sense of well being and hope.

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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