July 10, 2014, Vol. 12, Issue 12
I’m not quite done with stories about my recent move, because while I was moving, life (and business) continued on.
I seldom brag about my services, but in this case, the client is tooting my horn, so I’m going to let her because the narrative shows that she made wise choices as well.
Saved the Day!
By Marcia Anderson, Cancer Survivor Specialist,
George Bray Cancer Center, New Britain, CT
Whether planning for a cancer awareness month program or a National Cancer Survivors’ Day (NCSD), our signature event, there is only one option — contacting our dedicated speaker agent, Barbara Christenson at The Speak Well Being Group. Over the past 7 years, Barbara has brought us the finest motivational speakers on cancer survivorship for breast cancer, gynecological cancer, and for NCSD.
This year things took several sudden twists and turns. It all started when I was approached directly by a nationally known speaker to keynote our survivors’ day celebration, June 1. My familiarity with the speaker’s name and the referral source were very sound. My only request was that it be booked through The Speak Well Being Group to ensure the same level of comfort and collaboration that I have been accustomed to. This was the first time in several years that I had waded into the speakers’ pool alone, and I was thrilled and relieved that Barbara would facilitate a contract on our behalf.
Fortunately, as fate would have it, this turned out to have been not only a good call, but a critically important one that we would need to complete the event. Why?
Because just one working day before the weekend (Sunday) event, I got a call: the speaker was ill and might not be able to make it. Note to speakers: First of all, you should call the speakers bureau first (not the client) and let them handle it, and secondly, don’t say “might not make it.” Meeting planner hears, “You’re not coming.” You just cancelled.
Over the years in our long relationship, Barbara and I have had opportunities to share notes about how programs have been disrupted by natural disasters. (For example, we’d had to rebook a breast cancer event together with Susan Sparks when Super Storm Sandy slammed the East Coast 2 years ago), as well as other twists of fate she’d encountered with client events along the way.
Hanging up from the speaker’s call, my first reaction was to make a stab at solving the problem immediately myself (yes, I can be a Type A- aren’t all the best planners!), by calling a former NCSD speaker who lived close by and had been treated at our hospital. Then I realized that the most obvious solution was right in front of me – call Barbara!!! This was the perfect time to put her experience and stories to the test. My only mistake was thinking it was probably too late for a good event recovery, when in fact, I hadn’t even shared the dismal news with her yet.
Barbara was in touch within 5 minutes of my distress call, and she immediately began formulating a series of action plans- ranging from the “who I know geographically close to you” to “who I think might still be available on Sunday, let me call them” mode. In less than an hour, she was back on the phone with an experienced, suitable, and available cancer survivor speaker with airline options. This speaker was even willing to work for the back-end of the fee in the interest of saving the day and sharing with other survivors her story and her warm sense of humor.
Thanks to Barbara, 36 hours later I met Patty Wooten at the airport. I picked her up myself for true peace of mind. She said I’d recognize her by her red clown nose. I certainly did.
The next day, when the program was over, all of the patients and their families had been to a fabulous event, and many wore little red noses on their faces in their family photos. Patty had worked the room and made sure to personalize the event and build smiles well ahead of her stage entrance. A+! (A patient who attended that program called me only moments ago and said she had never laughed so hard as she did that day).
Reflecting on the developments, I recognize that within 60 minutes of the onset of the dilemma, I had two heroines emerge from a terrifying planner’s moment that would have left my cancer center struggling to regain composure and trying to solve last minute problems on a Saturday, hours before the event.
That Patty Wooten, would step out of the shadows at the last moment as a wonderful part of our program, and never miss a beat, was truly amazing.
But Barbara – well, she pulled our event out of deep water and restored our equilibrium. And she did it even though she got the emergency call in the midst of the physical process of moving day (which we all know is highly stressful), while leaving her home for a temporary summer layover home. She’d just put most of her belongings in storage. (To quote her, “It’s complicated!”)
She jokingly said to me that she’d much rather stop and do her real day job than to move any more plants, boxes, and furniture, and her husband set her up with a workspace on a dime. Now that is true survivorship of another kind, and maybe even the best kind of “Bestie”- the one who always has your back in a tight jam and one whose promises are just that – a promise to deliver no matter what happens, and even when no desk is in sight (She said the table in the photo came from the garage — it was the only stick of furniture left other than some plastic deck chairs, and they’d left the electronics plugged in . . . just in case). Way to go, Barbara!
The Rest of the Story . . .
Way to go, Marcia! As you might imagine, the story was slightly more harrowing on both ends than related here, but we decided to keep it short and to the point. I would not be able to print what came out of my mouth when I sat down to innocently look at my iPhone – thinking I was just going to check messages. You do not want to see EMERGENCY in the Subject Line of an email from a client when you think you’re taking a short break from the gargantuan task of moving.
What I will say is how much I appreciate the loyalty of a client like Marcia, as well as our ability to work together, read a challenging situation clearly, and come out with a reasonable and winning solution that we forged together. And that includes a HUGE thank you to Patty for her quick and warm response. I knew that she was a professional who could slip in and save the day! And that’s exactly what she did. And I think that Marcia’s beaming face in the top photo (taken at NCSD that day) shows a most relaxed, and happy meeting planner, and that puts a smile on my face.
As for me, I am proud of my ability to be creative and clear in the face of daunting circumstances. Once I moved beyond shock, it was a pleasure to divert from the all-encompassing job of moving to the urgent but blissfully immediate work of resolving a problem. In the end, what was important for me was that the speaker be the right fit, and that the event be successful for the audience and the client. Together, that’s what we accomplished.
Until next time, I recommend staying calm in the midst of chaos. (And remember to call me if your speaker bows out!) Meantime, take care of yourself for your well being and those you love.
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.