You May Be An Expert, But Stop Wasting My Time

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Your Bio Was Intriguing, but Your Content was Incongruent

As a busy professional, I’d imagine you would agree with me that if your general opinion of meetings was published as a book, the title might be something like “Stop Wasting My Time”.  Each week, hundreds  thousands millions of meetings likely occur around the globe.  How in the world can you be sure the ones you choose to attend will be worth the time invested?

iStock_000004637317SmallHow to Choose Meetings You Should Attend

  1. Is it a “required” meeting?  If this is a standing appointment, you may still choose to “pass” from time to time.
    Weekly sales meetings are a good example. A well-run organization should appreciate that if you are not in the sales meeting because you are on an actual sales call with a customer or prospect, that is a good thing.
    However, if the meeting is your quarterly or annual review with your boss to discuss your performance, expectations, or special project you are being asked to head up, then this one probably is a meeting you should attend.
  2. Did you call the meeting?   Few examples in the world are more disrespectful than the one person who does not show up prepared (or, at all) for a meeting is the very person who called it. If you called it, you had most certainly show up (prepared) or respectfully cancel the meeting with plenty of lead time.  [Trust me, the attendees will appreciate getting some unexpected time back.]
  3. Is the topic relevant to you?  Take a look at the information regarding the presenter or the topic and decide if that message is relevant enough to your current projects, responsibilities or interests to take the time to attend.  If it is relevant, and you believe you will learn something from it, I’d say your attendance would be worthwhile.
  4. Who else do you expect to attend the meeting?  One of the best ways to get in front of a client, prospect, or influential person is to “happen to bump into them at a meeting” and learn you have a “shared interest in a topic.”  One of my most fun meetings occurred on a Saturday morning, 28-mile bicycle ride when nobody else showed up except for me and the director of an economic development team.  We showed up to ride bikes, but learned a lot about each other’s business, too!
  5. Geography If you live in a large, metropolitan area, the idea of “just across town” can literally mean an eighty-mile round trip, or worse- getting caught in a crushing traffic jam at least one-way of your traverse to attend the meeting.  If there is a 60-minute meeting that requires me to spend an hour or more in transit when I have no other business in the area or the above questions are void of compelling answers, I will likely skip it, no matter how much I “support the organization”.  It’s simply not the best use of my time.

not on timeRecently, a monthly group I have been recently attending (I even spoke to this particular group a couple of months prior) announced their program speaker. I went down the list above and determined that given the reputation of the speaker (he was quite credentialed) and the opportunity to network with a few people I expected to see there, that I’d make the 40 mile drive (one-way) “across town” to the meeting.  The lunch was tasty (maybe I should add a “culinary options” question to the list above as sushi is a definite plus for this particular meeting).  The conversation fed my creative brain with some ideas for my new program under development – another plus. But…. to say the featured speaker was running a little late would be an understatement.  He arrived about 10 minutes before the scheduled end of the meeting.

As If That Wasn’t Enough…

The moderator for the event acknowledged the promised “running time” for the meeting and informed the late-arriving speaker he could still have 10-minutes to present. [Again, as a speaker who has traveled extensively, I understand that things happen.  I was annoyed, but kept an open mind.  “Let’s see what he can do with 10 minutes”, I thought.

Here Is Where He Lost Me

With great anticipation, and a hurried introduction, the presenter jumped right into his presentation.  I suppose the elephant in the room was his tardiness.  Without any explanation, he just started into his presentation….that he did not appear to tweak one iota. How do I know that, you ask?  His opening statement…I mean he built it up as a cardinal rule for meeting speakers…was “Rule #1″…. He spent three minutes (30% of his time) touting (are you ready for it?) the importance of arriving early at every speaking engagement to build connection with his audience! If that wasn’t enough, he then paused (remember, he’s only been given ten minutes to present) to shout out an order to the restaurant employee quietly clearing the table for an order of coffee…”black.”  I quietly packed up my notes, stood up, nodded to the meeting facilitator, and hit the door.  What a hack! [I later learned he went straight into a sales pitch from there.]

Damage Done

I have been on the fence about this particular group for a while.  I had made a specific point to attend, as this speaker had worked with some of the biggest names in the business.  His materials touted him to be “America’s #1 Expert on Sales“….too bad I didn’t stick around to hear his pitch! [Note:  He was there to promote an upcoming event to which he was selling tickets…I will NOT be attending.]

If you call a meeting – show up ready for it.  If you attend a meeting – know why you are there.  If someone wastes your time – question whether it is important enough for you to attend the next one.  And, if you are ever the featured speaker for a meeting, make sure you show up early to build some rapport with the audience or stop wasting my time!

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Clint Eastwood Speech At RNC 2012 Was Bad For Speakers

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Let me begin by saying, I am a Clint Eastwood fan.  In movies. As a director. And likely, he’s the kind of guy I’d like to have a drink with. As a speaker, however, I have a problem.  Let’s break it down. (If you haven’t yet seen it, you’ll find a video of the speech from YouTube, below.)  I am technically an Independent voter, and am not here to discuss the “merits” of his points, rather the problem with “celebrity speakers”.

Clint EastwoodOn August 30, 2012, on the final night of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, Clint Eastwood took to the stage as a much ballyhooed, “mystery speaker” who had been pumped up by the media for the entire convention.  He hit the stage with an image of a gun-wielding cowboy – perhaps from “Fist Full of Dollars” or perhaps “The Outlaw Josey Wales”…it doesn’t matter.  We all know him, and as I said before, his body of work is iconic as the classic bad-ass — he even usurps Chuck Norris.

Some celebrity speakers use their fame to advance a cause.  George Clooney has raised international awareness of the issues in Darfur.  Lance Armstrong (yes, I remain a fan of his, too) has raised hundreds of millions for cancer research through the Lance Armstrong Foundation /Livestrong.  Charlton Heston, another actor, was very involved in political activism, including his role of President of the National Rifle Association. Others, however, use their “celebrity” as a money grab (Seriously, people PAID to have Snooki show up at their event?).  Eastwood was somewhere in-between.   I’m certain his endorsement of Mitt Romney as the Republican GOP’s candidate for President of the United States (POTUS) is sincere, but the speech…well, let’s get to that.

Clint Eastwood, from a speaker’s point of view:

  • Never take your “imaginary friend” on stage with you – Sure, it sounds good in a conference room, or at the bottom of a great glass of scotch, but portraying the sitting POTUS as an imaginary guest in a disrespectful bit where you imply he is using profanity and spouting rhetoric the speaker himself would not dare say out loud is gimmicky, cheap, and disrespectful to the office.
  • If you do use an imaginary friend, have a script.- Having originally missed seeing or listening to the speech live, I read a copy of a transcript of it, and was unable to decipher what, exactly, was going on. I honestly thought he may have suffered a stroke from the platform. The video confirmed it was…well…on purpose.
  • Comedy is based in Tragedy-  In a political speech, no doubt, a little bit of comedy can go a long way to “humanize” a speaker. Eastwood’s use of a comedic (and I use that word loosely) sketch comedy bit was…well, simply tragic.
  • Make sure you have something to say- Early in my career as a speaking professional, my own father spoke those words of wisdom to me about my aspirations. He quickly followed with, “I’ve heard many-a-speaker talk for hours and hours about absolutely nothing.” Dad, I’m not certain Mr. Eastwood would have passed your test with his performance.
  • Never upstage the headliner- I recently attended a session at the National Speakers Association national conference about how to add “spectacle” to your speech and make your event memorable.  Okay, sir.  If the tweets immediately following and subsequent media chatter about your speech are any indication, you did just that.  Then again, Mitt Romney seems to lack that X-factor from behind the podium I look for in any speaker.
  • Suggesting the student loan debt in the United States is a throw-away issue might work against the votes your party needs to win the upcoming election.  Student loan debt is the next big economic issue we must address as a country.  At over $1 Trillion, there are more student loans than unsecured consumer debt or total dollars spend to bailout Wall Street investment banks during this past Presidential term. (See also this article from the New York Times) As a member of Generation X married to a Generation Y spouse and having dealt with that issue in our household, I don’t think your suggestion that President Obama’s addressing that topic on college campuses was a worthless exercise was appropriate.

Finally, there was the Freebird moment, when a random conventioneer yelled out for Clint Eastwood to recite his famous line, he quite successfully used the “Call and Response” technique by uttering “Go ahead…” to which the audience said, “Make. My. Day.” before erupting with thunderous applause as he concluded his speech.

Was the Clint Eastwood at RNC 2012 memorable, yes. Entertaining, of course.  Serious, not really.  Did it do any favors for those of us who take speaking seriously as a profession…not at all.

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Don’t Fence Me In – Open Space Technology

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Cole Porter wrote the song.  Roy Rogers and Dale Evans sang it in a movie of the same title.  Now, Cooksey is CONNECTING this idea with your organization’s needs!

This weekend, I was introduced to an amazingly low-tech, highly effective group tool known simply as Open Space Technology.  If you’re looking for a technique to tantalize your team, wake up your weary, or engage your effectiveness as an organization, this is it. CONNECT with COOKSEY and his associates to learn more about this remarkable facilitation technique and how we could bring it to YOUR ORGANZATION!

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Cooksey Connects at Child Care Mini-Conference

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This past weekend, I had the honor of delivering the opening keynote presentation for the Child Care Mini-Conference in Miami, OK.  I wish to publicly thank the Ottawa Tribe of Oklahoma and the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma for sponsoring me to speak.  These two fine groups are doing great work in support of the development of young people within their tribal communities!

Following the general session, attendees then came back for more in the breakout session “The Way You’ve Always Done It Doesn’t Work Anymore”- where we discussed some practical tools, tips and techniques for breaking the cycle of being “stuck” in the highly regulated world of child care.  In short, it became clear that Child Care professionals do not need to ask permission to act with compassion and care.  What an impact these amazing people at the conference make every day in their jobs!

During the keynote, I mentioned a couple of videos and promised a link to those, so here they are:

  • The Carolina Abacedarian Project – This groundbreaking study which began in 1972 gave the world proof that by providing consistent, age-appropriate, structured child care in the first five years of life can set a child on a path toward adult success and better chance for lesser mental health challenges later in life.  Here’s a clip from the study’s website to explain more.  CLICK HERE FOR THE VIDEO
  • Also, we took some time to watch Dalton Sherman’s 2008 speech to educators in Dallas ISD in Texas.  If you are an educator or care about the future of education and our young people in America, this is 9 minutes of reminder you MUST SEE:

During the day, over 200 child care professionals were not only inspired to continue making a difference in the lives of each young person with whom they interact each day, but also were encouraged to look beyond the walls of their own Child Care centers to build a community within they could network, share best practices, and encourage one another to stay consistent, upbeat, and enthusiastic in the face of each day’s routine.

Child care professionals, I applaud EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU for the tireless service you provide every day.  It was an honor to speak at your mini-conference, and I look forward to seeing you again, soon!

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Hey, OKC! Are you "Motivated"?

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I had a chance to see the “Get Motivated” tour in Tulsa, last year, at the BOk Center. I’ve seen a lot of tweets today from you about the “GM” stop in Oklahoma City.

Please leave your thoughts and comments below. I’m planning to follow up, myself, but want to hear your comments first!


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