Finding the funny in a speaker’s life
New Outfit = $146
Standing Ovation = Priceless
settled into my airplane seat, wearing my still-new polyester suit, dress shirt, tie and shoes. Hey, I’d only paid $146 for the whole outfit that morning. And guess what happened because of it?
Let me step back.
I had a week of city hops with a mix
of keynotes and corporate magic shows.
My last leg—Bentonville, Arkansas—
featured a program for a fairly large
international retailer. Now, stuff
happens when you fly and, sometimes,
stuff doesn’t happen. Late this evening,
worriedly waiting in LaGuardia airport,
I knew I had no time for delays. That’s
when I saw the gate agent pull out hotel
“I have an keynote at 8: 30 tomorrow
morning. I don’t think so,” I groaned.
So, I politely asked the agent,
“Where can you fly me to tonight that’s
within a six-hour drive of Bentonville.”
St. Louis? OK! So off I ran to the
departure gate while calling the rental
car company. The clerk happily quoted
Between air and car, I should arrive in
Bentonville by 5: 30 a.m.
“owns” this city. Coincidentally, most
people in my morning audience work
for this retailer. Screech! Once inside
the store, I quickly found the business
attire section and selected clothes for
my program that would start in hours.
Shortly thereafter, I sported a brand
new suit, dress shirt, tie (not clip-on)
and shoes—all for the amazing total of
But I didn’t feel comfortable. First,
I was self-conscious about my dress
and didn’t want people to think I
was a fake. Second, I felt hot (
polyester doesn’t breathe) and I hadn’t even
stepped on stage. My outfit was far
from perfect—but baby, it’s showtime.
“What should your opening speaker
wear? A custom-made Brooks Brothers
suit or an off-the-rack selection from a
Then I explained, “Well, I wanted
to experience how your customers feel
… for real. So I purchased this whole
outfit there this morning for only
$146. Your store totally topped my
expectations.” Before I could finish,
people stood up excited, cheering and
No planned ending could have
topped that Standing O!
Hours later, I flew home wearing my
hot polyester suit. I reminded myself
that every audience has expectations—
and speakers take the stage to top them.
Uneasy Questions Stirred
Once on stage, I launched into my
program creating showtime moments.
But in my mind, uneasy questions
stirred. “Will they know where this
outfit came from? If I dare tell them,
will they be insulted, proud or disin-
terested? Will I be embarrassed and
shunned? Will this suit fall to pieces
before I finish? I’d better not risk it.”
During a two-second pause near the
end of my program, my brain raced to
thoughts about my wardrobe. In a flash,
I gambled and asked the audience,
Jon Petz, Chief Engagement Officer of Bore No More!™, applies SHOWTIME moments to help people in organiza- tions wildly exceed customer
expectations. A keynote speaker, event
emcee, and comedy/magic entertainer, Petz is
the author of Boring Meetings Suck. Visit
www.BoringMeetingsSuck.com or contact
Petz at Jon@BoreNoMore.com.
How to Explain My Jeans and
I’d already checked my bag with my
clothes in it, but at least I had my
speech necessities at hand. Now, I’d
better prepare an opening joke and an
explanation for wearing jeans and a
As I drove into Bentonville, I passed
a 24-hour retailer—the one that