A few weeks back, a friend texted me early on a Sunday morning. He’d been watching a handful of TEDx Buckhead talks and came across one delivered by Jennifer Cohen entitled The Secret to Getting Anything You Want in Life. The timing was amazing …
The text read …
I don’t know why but you kept coming to mind as I watched this one. It made me think of you. Check it out when you get a moment.
Later that day, I clicked on the link he’d sent and Wow!
Before I explain, let me tell you who Jennifer Cohen is. Canadian by birth [Winnipeg, Manitoba], Jennifer is now a Los Angeles-based fitness trainer, writer, best-selling author, speaker and entrepreneur who has sold several start-ups for many millions of dollars. [ Go, girl! ] She’s also co-founder of The Good Human Foundation, a breast cancer charity that raises hundreds of thousands of dollars annually for research and treatment. Oh, and she’s a wife and a mom to two little ones. Busy lady, she is.
Today being St. Patrick’s Day and all, I wanted to share this with you because, truly, it was the luck o’ the Irish for me when I watched that TEDx talk. In it, Jennifer shares a story from her senior year of high school. She had a dream of becoming a VJ on MuchMusic — Canada’s version of MTV at the time with a heavy focus on music and pop culture. Competition for these VJ jobs was intense and Jennifer knew her demo reel needed to be much more than great, it needed to jump off the screen, grab you and pull you in.
Being 18 and extraordinarily confident, Jennifer knew exactly what she needed to do when she learned Keanu Reeves [a fellow Canuck by way of Toronto] had decided to spend a few months in Winnipeg chasing his boyhood dream of becoming a Shakespearean actor. “What better than to travel to Winnipeg in the middle of winter when it’s minus-40 and play Hamlet?” Jennifer jokes in the talk.
But she knew this was her carpe diem moment. If she could somehow get his attention, secure an interview, include it on her demo tape and submit it to MuchMusic, she’d land her dream job.
“An autograph … why would I want an autograph?”
Long story, short, she hung out behind the small theater for hours in frigid conditions with a handful of media and several dozen other high school girls in pursuit of an autograph, a photo, a hug or maybe even a photo of being hugged.
One by one, most of the others gave in to the chilly night and left, leaving Jennifer and just a handful of girls waiting for the actor. Alas, a door swung open and there he was. She stepped boldly through the group, tapped him on the shoulder and announced, “Keanu, you’re gonna be my ticket to my dream job!”
“How ‘ah-boot’ I just give you an autograph,” he replied.
Furrowing her brow and obviously perplexed, she responded, “An autograph … why would I want an autograph? That doesn’t help me get my dream job.”
Obviously amused and a bit curious, the actor asked Jennifer to write down her name and phone number and said he’d try to call her if he had a few minutes. Because she didn’t have a pen or paper, she borrowed a girl’s eye-liner brush to write down her name and number on the back of a gum wrapper and handed it to the star.
After a handful of funny and awkward back-and-forth phone messages, Keanu did indeed connect with Jennifer and agreed to come to her home to be interviewed on video. She later submitted her demo tape to MuchMusic, went through the job interview process and … Bingo, dream job, right?!
“Hell no, I did not get the job,” she tells the audience.
But Jennifer got something better.
That whole experience taught her the importance of being bold and asking for what you want – even if you have to ask for it 10 times. “You miss 100% of the shots you never take,” she points out. She goes on to say that boldness, in her opinion, is a stronger indicator of success than even intelligence.
“I’m not saying bold people aren’t intelligent or that intelligent people aren’t bold. But smart people consider all the things that can go wrong while bold people dream of all that could go right. It’s not an ‘either/or’ situation.”
Back to me and the fortuitous timing of the TEDx talk.
After I’d watched Jennifer’s 16-minute talk, I realized how much I needed to hear her message of being bold. I was one day away from embarking on perhaps the most complex production I’d ever taken on – a multi-day virtual meeting with a combination of live and pre-produced segments, presenters in different time zones and an audience spread across the U.S. There were more cues and pre-sets than ever before. It wasn’t exactly doing a live television broadcast but it was pretty darned close.
If you know me, you know I am not lacking in self-confidence. [What’s that t-shirt say, Underestimate me … yeah, that’ll be fun.] You have to be confident in the corporate meetings and events industry or you’ll be eaten up by the demands of the job. You have to believe in yourself and your ability to deliver … no matter what circumstances are thrown at you.
In short, you have to be bold.
But this show, hmmm. This one had me more concerned than usual. I liken how I felt to a runner who’s used to logging 3-4 miles daily and is suddenly at the start line of a 6.2-mile 10k event. You know you can do it, but you also know you’re about to be pushed beyond what you’re used to so there’s an extra butterfly or two flitting around your mid-section.
I knew what I needed to do: Be bold! That was it, I simply needed to be bold and get this show up and running. And I did. [And by the way, it also helped to be surrounded by incredibly talented people that believed in me and trusted me.]
“I made a few changes. They’re on this jump drive.”
With virtual events, the timeline to get meeting components delivered is very different than the lead-up to an in-person event. I’ve produced just shy of a gazillion-and-a-half face-to-face events and, I swear, I could produce one in my sleep [though I promise not to].
Instead of one week, I literally needed to have all videos, graphics, transitions, audio components, etc. in hand a full two weeks before the show. That didn’t exactly happen so we were scurrying more than usual, a lot more. We had a lot of programming to be done if we were to deliver on the meeting design.
It takes a great deal of time and attention-to-detail to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. The demands of this event were a far cry from a presenter tossing a jump drive at you four minutes before doors and asking you to reload their presentation.
With the recent pandemic-driven sea change in the meetings and events industry – doing virtual versus F2F gatherings – we’re still retraining ourselves, our teams and, yes, our presenters who are accustomed to making day-of-event, last-minute changes backstage. With virtual, that’s one big, honkin’ formula for failure.
Days 1 and 2 rocked along nicely and I actually began to entertain thoughts of a 100% flawless program [there is no such thing]. On Day 3, one of our live presenter’s mics failed just as she was about to get the “Cue talent” signal and we needed to get her a replacement immediately. As all my Zoom buddies out there know, 60 seconds of dead air in a virtual meeting is a killer. Fortunately, because the team had put together a strong back-up plan, her mic was quickly replaced and we were back on track in less than 30 seconds. Mind you, none of us were in the room with her at the time. Anyone up for a sprint?
The balance of the event went smoothly, the client was very, very pleased and my brain was very, very fried, I must admit. We had an extraordinary team working this complex program and we were bold in everything we did. And it paid off.
When my friend had sent me the link to the TEDx Talk with the “Be bold” message, it was timely because I was a more concerned than usual about all the moving parts. [And quite ironically, my client wanted to intersperse mini-presentation segments in the program entitled … Bold Talks.]
As Jennifer says in her TEDx talk, “Be bold. Chase what you truly want, don’t chase what you can get. Because when you do, you’ll either get exactly what you want or what was meant to be.” This successful meeting was meant to be.
Happy St. Paddy’s Day, everyone. And don’t forget to be bold!