I recently had the pleasure of speaking at a leadership event for a large association. Though the woman who hired me to present had seen me speak years ago. We had stayed in touch despite her leaving Texas for greener pastures elsewhere.
The event this woman originally saw me speak at wan’t very well planned or well attended. To be honest was a bit of a cluster. The event organizer changed the format, the timing and really created a very uncomfortable environment for everyone in attendance. Despite all of that, I went on at my scheduled time without complaint or issue because that’s what I do. Anything else would be a bad Ripple right?
The other speaker scheduled to speak after me, left in a huff after complaining loudly about how poorly the event had been planned just as I was finishing my presentation. Their leaving without presenting left an entire hour open on the agenda. Then, at the last minute the organizer publicly asked me to fill in for the other speaker. As you can imagine this put me in a very awkward spot in front of the audience.
I had prepared only for my talk. I had no idea what I was going to talk about for another hour. Beads of sweat started to form on my forehead as a frustrated and confused audience looked up at me – seeming to wonder what I’d do next for my next unscheduled act.
Then I noticed a smile in the audience. A smile I had noticed repeatedly during my presentation, from a young man who somehow reminded me of a younger version of myself. His smile had encouraged me that the information I was sharing was valuable and he was absorbing it as I spoke. That made me happy.
So not having prepared content or additional slides in my deck I stopped, took a breath and said, “Thank you. Thank you for this unexpected opportunity to continue the conversation. I am sure some of you might have some questions on what I’ve shared, so fire away”. This young man’s hand shot up immediately. Like he had been holding a question in all this time, and could burst if he didn’t ask it.
I won’t bore you with all the back and forth that happened for that next hour but the questions came fast and furious, including from this young man. The time flew by and what had been expected to be a second formal presentation was suddenly a conversation amongst friends. Our time turned into a fun, engaging dialogue on the power of connection. We all shared stories. I answered their questions. We all became friends that night. We chatted, we Rippled and forgot all about the other speaker and their brattish behavior.
A possibly bad situation turned out instead to be a memorable one. It seems my content, my flexibility and my openness that night started a Ripple in the heart and mind of a woman in the audience that night. The very same woman who just hired me to talk.
She apparently never forgot how easily I went with the flow, my sincerity answering everyone’s questions and hearing their stories. Something she shared with me when calling to offer a very unexpected speaking gig for the organization she works for.
I had no idea that the memory from that night still stuck in her mind. Despite staying in touch via social media she never shared the experience of that night before now. She told me how key that experience had been to her own speaking career in learning to adapt and not worry about having things go perfectly. “They go they way you make them go” was a phrase she shared she often uses and credited me with saying it that night. I’ll have to trust her on this as I don’t recall saying something so prophetic.
Then, as she explained the particulars of her event. I curiously asked her why she thought I might be a fit. “Because Steve you are an influencer and these leaders need to hear from someone like you. You are a no nonsense guy who rolls with the punches and creates Ripples out of any situation. I can’t imagine a better speaker for this event.”
Talk about humbling.
We all have the power to influence. Whether it’s the audience in front of you, your team at work, a co-worker, colleague or even just a friend. Never underestimate the power of your influence! And when you least expect it, how you’ve influenced someone will come back in a way that you never anticipated or expected. Hmm sort of like a Ripple eh?
Interested learning more about the power of influence? Please check The Ripple Effect podcast episode where I talk about what it takes to be an influencer, how to spot fake influencers and some other stuff:
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