COLLEEN SWEENEY, CSP, has made a
career of studying what patients fear. She
engages healthcare organizations to recognize
patient fears and exercise empathy by utilizing
predictive analytics. She is the President of
NSA Central Florida. sweeneyhealthcare@
Keynoters have a routine prior to taking the stage, and I am no exception. I get
totally pumped, aiming to deliver
a high-energy, attention-grabbing
first three seconds, in hopes of
holding the audience spellbound
for the next 60 minutes!
But what happens when you
arrive at an event and everyone
is crying or, even worse, fighting?
Yep, it’s happened to this girl.
One time, upon arriving to speak
at a hospital nursing conference,
the attendees, including the nurse
meeting planner, were crying and
comforting each other.
Apparently, the hospital had
announced a nursing layoff the
morning I was scheduled to speak.
“Please give a warm welcome to …
Colleen Sweeney!” could hardly be
heard over the heaving sobs.
More recently, I was asked to
speak at a national dermatology
conference. I was informed that a
business meeting would be taking
place prior to my presentation, and
I was fine with that. Unfortunately,
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EV EN T
BY COLLEEN SWEENEY, CSP
though, the meeting quickly turned
to name-calling and finger-point-ing and ended just short of a donnybrook. Prior to my introduction,
half of the attendees stormed out
of the ballroom, shouting, “I quit!”
Then I was introduced.
Let me offer several suggestions for strategies that I’ve
found to be helpful when such a
1. Immediately abort your clever,
2. Address the situation with
3. Stay calm and unruffled,
putting your audience at ease.
“These things happen” should be
4. Don’t aim to solve or resolve
it. Deliver your message instead.
5. In your closing remarks, share
that it’s your hope they can take
away something of value from