The Meeting That Never Was

Make your next meeting an experience.

Sometimes we attend a scheduled meeting, which turns out to be something else; an experience. Recently I had one of those unforgettable experiences. At one of my club’s bi-monthly meetings two Thursdays ago, we didn’t have a quorum.

As the SAA- Sargent at Arms, I called the meeting to order. Realizing we were facing a problem all clubs occasionally do, we considered canceling the meeting. Luckily, we didn’t, and it turned out to be a moment all who showed were happy they did. I now call that experience – The Meeting that Never Was.

The scheduled agenda was postponed to the next meeting day. A motion was then entertained to watch a video and have Table Topics based on what everyone saw, heard, and felt. The motion carried.

After watching the video, Jeffery Deslich delivered his Table Topic, which I am happy to share today with his permission. The video selected from my library was by Dr. Sean Stephenson.

His video was played on the final day of a 3-day Seminar I had attended one week earlier. Unfortunately, Dr. Sean Stephenson is now deceased, but he remains unforgettable.

The Seminar was entitled – Monetize Your Message – Hosted by Bob Dietrich and Chris Nielson. It featured Lance Miller, Darren LaCroix, Mark Brown, and many other well-known Toastmasters and professional speakers. The following was Jeffery’s Table Topic. He vividly captured and shared how much he appreciated Dr. Stephenson’s video in an email to all the members of the club.

——– Original message ——–

 Hello fellow Toastmasters,

“During the last meeting, which was minimally attended, Henry proposed that we watch a video by Dr. Sean Stephenson, a therapist, self-help author, and motivational speaker. This speaker was unique in that because he was born with a problem that caused his bones to be very brittle, and he was only 3 feet tall 65 pounds, and in a wheelchair. Nonetheless, this man was an incredible speaker. “In the speech that we watched, he broke down the elements of the speech that he was giving, as he went along, detailing the many lessons that he has learned on how to write and deliver a great speech.”

I searched YouTube hoping to find this video, I could not find it, although I found many other excellent Sean Stephenson videos such as:

YouTube Link:
Creating Powerful Connections | Sean Stephenson    
(Dr. Sean Stephenson Videos are available on YouTube)

After watching the video last Thursday, we had a table topics session, and I delivered my table topics speech about the video from the notes I had taken.

This is a summary of my notes:

Don’t jump into the speech – he rolled his wheelchair out onto the stage but did not immediately start to talk; instead, he took a moment to look at the audience – for the audience to look at him. This had a huge visual and psychological impact.

For someone in a wheelchair, he had an incredible onstage presence, the way that he moved his wheelchair about the stage kept the viewers’ eyes focused upon him.

No autopilot – focus on your audience, make it real and personal every time you give your speech, don’t just recite your speech the way you have rehearsed it many times before

Pauses – many times during his speech, he just stopped and looked at the audience, sometimes to let the audience absorb what he just said, or other times to build up anticipation of what he would say next.

No Division – write your speech in a way not to divide your audience into groups; politically, religiously.

No Idolization – be one with the audience, try to be like your audience, show your audience that you are like them, do not put yourself on a pedestal.

Reconnect with the audience often.

Oh, Bummer. I have a note about a joke he told, but I only wrote on the punchline! “I’m not the father… I’m not the father” please, somebody, remind me of the joke! … ( it was about receiving good and bad news – I am not the father – Good News… I am not the father – Bad New)

Never make up a story – I liked this part the best! In this concept, he referred to the story as coffee, never make up a story, make your story real, but it’s okay to add “cream” that’s what adds flavor to the story, a little bit of embellishment.

He used many comedic hand gestures, for example, “ripping the Band-Aid off.”

Don’t apologize for screwing up – if you screw up and apologize to your audience, then you have screwed up twice! If you make a mistake, just keep going.

Audiences want closure – when you end your story, your audience wants it to have an ending. Even if it is a bad ending, it provides closure. ‘He closed his story by humming the tune to “Hail to the chief” as he told of him being pushed in his wheelchair into the White House, and that took his story back around the beginning of his speech where he talked about wanting to become the President of the United States.”

I invite all of you to go to YouTube and watch one or more videos from this excellent speaker. I believe you will find them very entertaining as well as educational.

I’m looking forward to seeing you at next Thursday’s meeting,”

Jeffery Deslich

That was not the first or will not be the last meeting that never was. However, every time I have one of those experiences, I am reminded of the humble beginnings of Toastmasters and even some clubs. They began with those who showed up and kept coming back. So, make your next meeting that never was, and experience. Have it for all who are called and the few who have chosen to be present. It’s not always about the numbers when you show up.

Author: HenryOMiller

Henry joined Toastmaster in March of 1997. He is presently a member of five clubs in Santa Cruz and San Jose. Henry is an executive speech coach, humorist, and speechwriter. He is also a musician and a lyricist​ whose speechwriting approach is similar to his approach to songwriting.