I said I’d tell you a bit more about live seminar distractions.
There were two other biggies....
The first was a full house at the old Sandton Crowne Plaza circa 1996. Think of 100 seats crammed in a room with a capacity of 80 seats.
Most hotels have a large banqueting room. They break this into smaller sections using concertina “walls”. These are not soundproof.
Next door a raucous bunch of louts made enough noise to drown me out. They practised the new national anthem with much vigour but zero skill. I excused myself and popped round to the other entrance.
I must be the only person on earth to burst in on a Springbok Rugby training session to ask them to keep it quiet. They were prepping for a test at Ellis Park.
The giant peering down at me laughed. And then ignored me.
This was one of the longest events I ever hosted. Trying to keep peoples attention is hard work when there is so much distraction. (My toughest crowd was a group of accountants in Pietermaritzburg which almost killed me.)
These live seminars were my new business. No matter how I tried to keep all the balls under control, weird things happened. And that’s the same with running your own business.
When we start out we cannot dream of all the unexpected events yet to confront us. Many of these will put us out of business. That never happens at a good time.
Our task is to prepare for closure. Not because we expect it. But because it happens to 90% of small businesses. And when it happens we should have a fence around our lifetime savings and assets.
Back to distraction…
Welkom is an interesting place.
I have been there twice. The first time was at the behest of the local Rotary club. This was at the start of my speaking career when I was hungry enough to go anywhere, anytime.
I later discovered that it was a bad idea. If the event was under my control I would find the best venue I could. The best sound. The best layout.
I did this so that people could hear my message. This wasn't arrogance. I had one chance to ask them to change how they did business. They wouldn't change if they couldn't hear me. Or if they were too uncomfortable to want to hear me.
This was in a church hall. A small group. No microphone. Nobody had paid to be there. No desks for notes. I suspect some people came only for the koeksisters and coffee. Most of them were not business owners.
When you first start to speak in public your biggest fear is to go blank on stage. It's the fear of the embarrassment which follows your silence as you lose your thread. That's why public speaking is right up there with death and divorce as our most common terror.
I have lost the thread often. But the most embarrassing time was at this Welkom meeting.
I am your normal South African male, if such a thing exists. At the risk of offending others, I prefer women as lifetime partners. In fact, I'm quite enthusiastic about them. I was first introduced to a woman when I was about six minutes old. I remain hooked.
We South Africans are sensitive about physical exposure. As am I. Although "enthusiastic" better describes my feelings on the matter.
And so, strange audience, strange room, strange trip to get there, and a mixed group. Disquieting.
I began my presentation.
It lasted five minutes.
And then the only lady sitting in the front row pulled down her blouse.
I may have stood silent for an eternity. That's about a minute when you're on stage. During that time, semi-topless, she reached down to a baby that I hadn't seen in a crib beneath her chair.
I have no idea what happened next. I have no idea if, or how, I got back on topic. This is my only memory of Welkom. I am told they have traffic circles there. I cannot recall seeing one.
Fast forward 15 years. Doing a live presentation online.
That's where I stand at my desk in front of two screens and a microphone to talk to lots of people around South Africa. Each sits in front of a PC. Many of them are deep in the sticks.
This is more comfortable. I don't care if you feed your children while I'm talking. This is the new world.
It’s much easier for a presenter because the costs are so low. No travel. No venue and equipment hire. No time away from office. It’s why 95% of my training is in online courses and webinars. And it offers an amazing tax-break in SA.
It’s also much easier and cheaper for attendees. They can rewind and review. A tough call in a live stage event.
When I first started doing online webinars I had a virtual assistant in England. She checked messages and dealt with folk having technical problems.
I try to start about 10 minutes before the allotted time. This "warms" the group and helps them fix any sound challenges.
There were about 100 men and women online with me. As my assistant Barbara logged in I greeted her with, "Hello Barbara, good to see you. Nice pyjamas.” She laughed.
About 5 women in the group went offline within seconds. The next morning I received emails from three of them. Each asked if I could actually see them through the ether. (No.) Although I did wonder how they might have been dressed to vanish so smartly.
One of my clients sent me a picture during one of the events. Him in his swimming pool with his laptop perched on a plastic chair. I suspect he lives in Welkom. It might be time for a follow-up visit.
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