I write this in between two major keynotes as Hurricane Florence has been downgraded to Tropical Storm Florence yet still pouring torrential rain throughout the Carolinas and creating massive state-wide flooding.
I nearly missed my keynote on Thursday in Michigan just before the storm hit and am scheduled to keynote tomorrow (Monday) unsure if my flight out will actually be on schedule. These two keynotes total $20,000+ which is a paycheck I, nor anyone, would want to miss out on.
The GOOD NEWS is that I'm prepared either way and my meeting planners are/have been aware. I also haven't been risking losing my speaking fee just in case I cannot arrive.
Purpose of this post is to share with you a few tips that will help ensure you know how to prepare accordingly. Because if your goal is to speak across the country 20-30-40+ times/year, then at some point you WILL have a weather-related travel nightmare whether it be hurricanes, snow, tornadoes, earthquakes, road closures, flight cancellations, travel accidents, etc.
You name the travel emergency, I've already had it. I've slept in airports, taken trains, rode on Greyhound Buses, rented 1-way cars, driven through the night multiple times, etc.
... and every time I've made it through. (knock on keyboard)
So are you prepared? Do you know how to draft a speaking contract so you're protected? What is your plan of action if your flight is cancelled and it seems nearly impossible to arrive by your presentation time?
Tip #1: Ensure your speaking contract protects your speaking business
My speaking contract includes a clause that protects me in unavoidable "Acts of God." I also collect 50% deposit before the event which is non-refundable due to "Acts of God." You need to have strong, clear language in your contracts that protect you in any situation beyond your reasonable control.
Tip #2: Cultivate an extraordinary relationship with your meeting planner / event organizer
You must have your meeting planner / event planner on "speed dial." The first second you realize weather is approaching or that you'll be having a travel issue, you better pick UP the phone. They will make it work while you're trying to make it there. For example, if the conference is a 2-3-4 day event, they likely can move you to an alternate time/day. Moreso, them understanding your issue in full disclosure will ensure they are empathic and understanding you've done everything possible to make it onsite.
Tip #3: If you must arrive late or leave early, make it right.
For example, this past Thursday I needed to leave my conference early so I could catch one of the last flights home before the airport shut down. I presented my keynote but needed to miss my additional breakout session. So in conversation with my meeting planner and the association president of the company I was speaking for, I offered a "value add" solution to provide my cancelled breakout session as a FREE webinar not just for the attendees but also for any member throughout their entire association. I also offered to send a free autographed copy of my book to all the staff of the association employees. Both my gestures not only made them happy, but they felt I over-delivered. Besides, I told them my wife would not be happy with me if I didn't make it home and she had to endure a hurricane by herself while I was in Michigan :)
Tip #4: Learn how to become your own travel agent
I dissent from majority speaker opinion on this one, but I prefer to book all my own travel ... for this exact reason of being able to manage travel-related emergencies onsite! If someone else had booked my travel/flight and I couldn't get ahold of them immediately or as needed, I'd be scre*wed. If the client booked travel for me, then they'd need to make all the changes. In the moment, we (speakers) need to be the ones who can quickly make decisions. To date I have NEVER missed a flight due to travel issues, yet I know many speakers with travel agents who have. Nuff' said.
Tip #5: When you do show up, it's "Game Time."
No matter what you've gone through to get there, or that you are anxious about getting out, you have to be 110% in the moment. You cannot let it be evident that you're not mentally right for a keynote speech. For example, during my book signing after the keynote this past Thursday, nearly every single person told me they didn't know how I could speak while so much else was going on back home. Even the association president said to me, "I'm surprised you even showed up."
Point is, have a "Game Time" ritual that gets you mentally prepared no matter what. And when you are onsite, nothing else can take away your focus. My "pre-speech ritual" does just that for me.
I hope these above simple tips help you for a future gig wherever you might be. At some point, you'll need to apply them!
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