A Great Way to Spend an Extra Day

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Leap day has a magic feel to it. As we all know, once every four years we add a day to our calendar as a corrective measure because the Earth doesn’t orbit the sun in precisely 365 days. Although many may see this as a chance for extra recess, for an entrepreneur like me, more hours mean more time to sell.

That’s why when the president of the National Speakers Association (NSA), Anna Liotta, CSP, asked me to co-chair our winter conference on the single topic of “The Sales Playbook,” I knew Leap Day weekend would be the perfect date. Invited guests could not say they “didn’t have time,” because the key day of the event landed on the bonus day.

I’ve never produced an event of this size before and, although I certainly didn’t do it alone, I felt the pressure of trying to make sure it was well received. Our goal was to quilt together the expertise of 16 speakers into a single package to deliver content that can’t be found anywhere else. Sounds easy enough, right? We spent nearly 18 months in preparation mode, and when the day finally arrived, I was very happy with what my co-chair, Sam Richter, CSP, and I had assembled.

The event was a success, and there were many times I found myself sitting in the front row with goosebumps and misty eyes overwhelmed with pride, watching speaker after speaker knock it out of the park. Now that I have had a few days of recovery back home, I have a few observations worth sharing that can benefit all readers, not just my speaker buddies.

What Producing Taught Me

Do what you say you’re going to do. And do it on time. 

Every one of our speakers met their deadlines. They attended pre-event planning sessions and arrived early for sound checks. They even provided us with quality handouts that we turned into an 86-page spiral-bound book (with additional downloadable resources) that is so good people are asking how to buy it as a standalone sales guide.

Do you meet your deadline with customers? As a home service pro, do you show up at the residence on time? As a creator of goods, do you deliver on product as promised?  If not, why not? IT MATTERS! 

Focus on the needs of the end user not on your own moment in the spotlight. 

Nearly 300 people attended this event because they wanted to improve their sales and network with their peers. They did not come to watch the hosts perform a comedy routine or segments of our keynote that weren’t relevant to the topic at hand just so I could obtain a great film clip for my demo reel. (Speakers reading this will totally relate to what I am saying.)

When you arrive at a site and see this amazing stage perfectly lit—exactly what is needed for an ideal piece of B-roll—it’s hard not to change the plan. I was thinking to myself, “Is there a place where I can slide in just two minutes of my keynote, tie it to a sales lesson, and get that clip?” The answer was no. As painful as that can be, as producers, we always have to do what is right for the customer, not ourselves. When your customers’ needs are the priority of the team, good things will happen.

Do you sacrifice for the benefit of the customer? Do you listen to the feedback they provide and make changes accordingly? Do you keep the drama behind the curtain?  What is keeping you from making them your priority? What self-serving interests might be getting in your way? IT MATTERS!

Be inclusive. You might just be surprised what you encounter.

I like to say that NSA stands for “never sit alone,” and I take it seriously. When I first started attending these events 23 years ago, I didn’t know a soul. I sat alone in a crowd of people, and while many darted off for evening meals and social time, I returned to my room and reviewed my notes after calling home. I didn’t feel lonely, but I did feel excluded. I didn’t want anyone at my conference to feel that way. So, with the help of a group of colleagues (NSA Houston) based in our host city, we were able to arrange for a dine-a-round. Anyone who desired could sign up to go dine with a group of strangers at one of 12 restaurants. Having a lot in common makes this a fairly painless task.

From the stage, I shared how this process works. Before I was done, I had a catch in my voice from the emotion I felt knowing that, by the next day, new friendships would be formed and that over the years, a few of those could turn into life-changing relationships. Just stop and think about that for a moment: one act of inclusion costs nothing, but can impact a life forever.

How do you make others feel included in your personal life? When is the last time you met someone new? Has it been too long since you connected with an old friend? What is keeping you from developing or maintaining these relationships? IT MATTERS! 

After more than a decade as a volunteer in this organization, serving a variety of roles, the time has come for me to step aside and let the next generation of leaders take center stage. I am eager to see what they produce and, more importantly, what I can learn by watching them.

An entrepreneur, keynote speaker and author, Laurie Guest, CSP is a “go-to-resource” for customer service excellence. For more than two decades, she has shared her practical point of view on customer service and staff development with audiences and companies across the country, blending real-life examples and proven action steps for improvement. Her latest book, The 10¢ Decision: How Small Change Pays of Big, presents her most sought-after and impactful strategies to find and retain the best staff and highest-quality customers while delivering exceptional guest experiences.

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