Just a thought… When you lose, don’t lose the lesson. [Dalai Lama]
Let’s catch you up on yesterday’s journal: I had just been announced to the stage at the Monteo Resort in gorgeous Kelowna BC. I was delivering my keynote address called “Transformation: When You’re Strong Because You Have No Choice” to a freshly caffeinated group of BC Broadcasters – radio and television.
It was about one minute before that introduction that I asked Rob for my iPad, to which I would refer while traversing the stage for the next half hour. I needed that device, or a script of some kind, as there were some 90 pictures that had been choreographed to go with the speech. So I didn’t want to miss cueing Rob. But he’d just realized we had left the iPad in the room. So what was I to do?
Without a word of a lie, I spoke for ten (or was it 12?) minutes – walking, talking, just filling – telling everyone about the early years of my career, why Kelowna is special to my family…and so on.
I kept joking about divorce and awaiting that iPad. It occurred to me to think, Just be real. They’ll understand that things happen and something has happened. Don’t try to pretend that everything is just fine. Be yourself. I can tell you about those thoughts because it was an out-of-body experience: one I’ve had before – in my dreams. This is the nightmare a public speaker has: you’re in front of an audience and have no prepared notes.
Now, people seemed to be on my side, very kindly listening in a friendly way, but I knew that I was finally running out of things to talk about. After all, I couldn’t give away any of the elements of my speech! Just as my former boss, Julie Adam, spoke up and helpfully offered, “Hey, why not call for a two minute break?” – a wonderful idea – Rob burst into the room. To a warm round of applause, he came to the stage, got on bended knee and handed me the iPad. I laughed, took a sip of water and began.
On with the show.
It wasn’t until afterwards that I learned the confluence of mess-ups that had to happen to make my “work nightmare” come true.
1. The iPad:
It was only the second time I’d used the iPad instead of a print script. I’d always worried about the possibility of problems when relying on a tablet, but after the success we had with the speech in Ottawa just a month ago, it didn’t even occur to me to have a printed paper version. That will change. All of that. And if you wonder why I need a script when it’s our life story, it’s because, with that number of pictures, there are cues to hit. And I had to get every single one right!
2. The hotel elevator:
Just one elevator. And a slow one. So Rob decided to run up the stairs outside the hotel from the pool area on up to the third floor.
3. The room key:
When he arrived at our floor, the key wouldn’t open the door from the outside staircase to the hallway. He ran back down those three flights, ran to the front desk and asked where the other outside stairs were. They pointed to the opposite end of the hotel and off he ran.
He took the stairs up two at a time, arriving at the third floor, only to find that the key card receptacle once again flashed red. It was not opening the door from outside to the hall where our room was!
Rob ran back down to the hotel lobby – three flights of stairs and a long hall – and waited impatiently until the elevator finally took him to our floor.
He ran to room 314, put in his door card and the door would not open; the key card had been deactivated that morning. It was 8:30 am, by the way, and there is no way that that should have happened; we definitely had not checked out!
Rob took the elevator back down to the lobby and begged the woman to reactivate the card. Like Mrs. Wiggins in the Carol Burnett/Mr. Tudball skit, she took her time. She had to ask someone. Rob said, out of breath, that he didn’t want to be rude, but his wife was waiting for the iPad she needed to make a speech. Still…slower than molasses in January, as my mom used to say. Much slower. And finally he got the card, took the elevator and grabbed the iPad. And it made its way to me.
We caught the entire misadventure on tape (Rob had set up a camera, as I wanted a tape of my speech to show the folks at a speakers’ agency). I don’t know if I can ever watch it, but for the rest of my days, I’ll remember that ten or 12 minutes. Talking to the fifty broadcasters in the room, laughing, trying to fill – something we all have had to do in radio at some time in our lives, but obviously the stuff that nightmares are made of as well – and thinking how I could have done things differently.
It started with feeling so empty-handed when I left the hotel room. And ended up with me learning a lot of lessons I will never forget. Maybe one of them is that I should go ahead and research and write that book about work nightmares.
The other is this: not having a prepared speech in my hand is not the worst thing that has happened to me or to Rob. The content of the speech is about that actual “worst thing.” All the rest? Perspective. Talk to you here tomorrow.