This summer, after 22 years of being a professional speaker, I had my first opportunity to work with our men and women in the military. Having never presented to folks in our armed services before, I was quite nervous. As I flew from Atlanta to San Diego to work with the Navy, my self-talk continually threw questions of doubt around in my head:
Would they enjoy my program?
Would my principles apply to “their world”?
Would they be able to relate to my stories and illustrations?
I envisioned a room full of men and women in uniform, sitting in perfect rows, staring up at me with lifeless, stony expressions that conveyed a “hurry up and finish, we have a country to protect” message.
As always, I arrived early to get set up and make sure all the technology was going to cooperate (laptop, LCD projector, wireless lapel microphone, etc). Moments later the first sailors began to arrive and sure enough they were in uniform. Having never served in the military, I immediately felt out of place in my coat and tie. I’m not sure if they could “smell the fear” or not but many of them immediately approached me and introduced themselves to me. Those first to arrive were actually part of a Navy band that was there to play music as the crowd of over 200 filed in.
“What a first class move”, I thought to myself. It sets a whole different feel when people walk into a large meeting room and there is upbeat, toe tapping music playing—much less from a live band. My contact told me that everything they planned for the meeting was intentional and he wanted folks to instantly feel engaged.
I thought to myself, “How many times have I watched people walk into a silent meeting room or ballroom and it was like walking into a morgue. It somehow makes folks want to sit in the back and “punch out”…you know, a lot like church.
The band continued to play right up to the start of the program and then performed the most amazing rendition of the star spangled banner I have ever heard. It gave me goosebumps. As I was introduced and took the stage, I had a crowd full of eager learners who were ready to be challenged and inspired by their speaker (me).
The morning went great and as I flew home I reflected on my contacts words “everything is intentional”.
What a great lesson for all of us. Sometimes it is the little things that can make a big difference in our lives and our pursuits. What many people might have thought of as an afterthought — “Hey, there was live music” –was actually an intentional step in creating the best environment for learning to take place…one with positive energy, that invited folks to engage.