Finding the funny in a speaker’s life
It Could Happen to You
SCENE 1: On an unseasonably warm evening session in a hall with no air condition- ing, it made perfect sense to pen the doors and encour- age a breeze. Apparently,
the open-door invitation extended
to a mangy tomcat. He strolled past
the bakery treats and wound his way
through the audience, taking the participants’ attention with him.
SCENE 2: Thirty minutes into a
session, a mouse crept under the door
to the conference breakout room.
Everybody saw him run in; nobody
saw him run out. Some people climbed
atop chairs; others crouched to search
for the critter finally found cowering
in a length of tablecloth pooled under
SCENE 3: The session in the community hall’s basement started at 7 p.m.,
and 100 Cubs and Beavers (young boys
on track to be Boy Scouts) poured into
the main floor upstairs by 7: 30 p.m.
This jamboree began with the banging
of ceremonial tails on the hardwood
floor. Relay races followed.
SCENE 4: As the keynoter built interest, the projection screen had plans
of its own. It ejected all of its screws
from its top bar, shot them into the
front row, and then disappeared like a
window blind at dawn.
SCENE 5: One side of the divider
in the hotel ballroom held an intimate session with six attendees. On
the other side, about 200 miners held
their annual Christmas party—
complete with Santa Claus, a live band and
an open bar.
SCENE 6: The school
gym seemed the perfect
setting for the session—
until the Coke machine
cut in. The projector
was plugged into the
same electrical circuit.
When the cooler sprang to
life, smoke billowed from
the outlet and the odor of
burning rubber filled the
SCENE 7: At 3 p.m. in the
daylong seminar, the building’s
fire alarms squealed to life. All 30
participants, plus the occupants of the 12 other
floors, rushed into the
street. Lighting candles
on a 60-year-old’s birthday
cake directly under the cafeteria’s heat
sensors was not a good idea.
Despite best efforts to plan events,
scout venues and check equipment,
how can we anticipate everything that
could go wrong? Frankly, sometimes
“going wrong” can provide a catalyst to
making the speaker/audience connection hugely memorable.
people gasped in
I pulled myself to my feet, my ego
bruised more than my body. That’s
when 100 people exhaled in unison,
and 101 people burst into laughter.
What a stress reliever and a humorous reminder of how speakers must roll
with the punches.
Case in Point
I was leading a stress-management
workshop for 100 healthcare workers
in a rural town hall. After launching
them into a group activity, I refilled my
coffee mug and headed for a seat to
rest awhile. As I sat down on the ordinary folding chair, the seat suddenly
split in two. I toppled backwards, mug
and its hot contents flying, legs straight
up in the air.
Patricia Katz, MCE, CHRP, HoF, helps organizational eaders reduce the impact of overload and overwhelm in their lives and workplaces.
This author of five books on life balance
shares her wisdom in her weekly ezine,
Pause. A member of Canadian Association of
Speaking Professionals, Katz was inducted
into the Canadian Speakers Hall of Fame in
2010. Contact her at email@example.com or