Reed Tinsley Saves the Day

June 8th, 2011 | Seminars & Publications

It’s important to have friends, and particularly friends with public speaking experience and a sense of humor. Today, I was the second general session speaker – on the federal Healthcare Reform legislation – at the New Jersey Society of CPAs Annual Convention. What I did not realize was that the first speaker was a former Blue Angels Navy Fighter Pilot, giving a what-proved-to-be dynamic talk on team work, using lots of video of close formation fighters and interviews of pilots. There are some things you simply cannot plan for.

I sat through half the presentation trying to stay focused on my own presentation and eventually gave up. Having unsuccessfully followed Reed at a general session in Kentucky 15 years ago – where I opened my session by saying “Reed is a tough act to follow” and then went on to prove it – I called him on his cell and caught him at the airport, on his way to speak at another conference. We shared a good laugh and I asked him what I should do. He said “I’ll think about it.” He called me back a couple minutes later and said “You need to open by saying “After watching the Blue Angels presentation, I realize I’m flying by the seat of my pants.”

I wrote the tagline down (!) and after the jets landed and the standing ovation concluded, headed to the front of the room to get wired with the mike. Meanwhile, they started to introduce me. When they finished, I had to step between the Screen and a Tree at the front of the hall to get out in front of the audience. If that wasn’t bad enough, the AV folks did not have my slides ready. So after announcing we had some technical problems, I opened with “After watching that Blue Angels presentation, I realize I’m flying by the seat of my pants.” Lots of laughs. I followed with the “Reed is a tough act to follow” story and got more laughs. Looked to the screen, still no slides, so I started to tell another story and … boom, up came the slides!

Thanks for saving the day, old friend!

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