Wednesday, April 20, 2016

What would you do if Your Conference Speaker Doesn't Turn Up?

Your guests have arrived for your conference and are waiting in anticipation for a Speaker to inspire them. As the speaker's session is about to begin, the emcee walks slowly on stage and announces that an unfortunate incident has happened and your speaker is not able to attend the event. What do you do as an organizer?

Neen James, MBA, CSP, a high-energy Aussie with a lot of sass, is an attention expert, keynote speaker shares her story with

The lights came up as the person who was about to interview a living legend slowly walked onto the stage at an industry conference. Our anticipation turned to apprehension as we watched his body language and facial expressions. Something wasn’t right. He turned to face us, and, with great sadness, told us that the special guest we had all been looking forward to hearing from was too ill to make it to the conference.

It’s an understatement to say we were disappointed. Not only for ourselves when we heard that we would not be able to learn from this person’s experience and advice, but we also felt upset for the interviewer, who had obviously invested significant hours to prepare for this event.

Then something wonderful happened. After the interviewer shared his personal disappointment at the turn of events, he put his contingency plan into action. He showed a remarkable tribute video about the person who was unable to make the show—and that person got a standing ovation, perhaps the first he’d ever received in absentia. The interviewer then interviewed another high-profile industry person with such fun and flair that he turned what could have been a disaster into a delight. Talk about grace under pressure!

The key was that he had a contingency plan, born out of liaison with the conference chair, the meeting planner, the CEO, and many others on the team. The result was a session that was talked about for weeks to follow, both among attendees who were in the audience and on social media, where the interviewer was called a “class act,” a “role model,” the “epitome of class,” and a “true professional.”

As someone who was there, I’d add the word “exceptional.” Every attendee in that ballroom witnessed how to elegantly handle a tough situation with grace, compassion, and eloquence.

As busy meeting professionals working with professional and industry speakers, do you have contingency plans you can put into action if your talent is delayed by travel or unable to make the session due to illness?

About the Author


Author & Editor

Based in Malaysia, Best Events specializes in Conferences, Seminars, Murder Mystery Dinners, Gala Dinners and Team Building events.


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