It is great to remember the big rallies and some of the wonderful audiences but as a professional speaker sometimes you you discover too late that some assignments aren’t all that glamorous.
One afternoon the owner of J&J Excavating Inc.called and told me that he had a special employee banquet coming up and he thought it might be a good idea to have a motivational speaker for a change.
When I arrived at the restaurant the audience was already in high form. It seems that they had quit working at noon and they had all been drinking since then. They had about a six hour start on me.
Then I found out that they did not know just what to expect in the way of after dinner entertainment. The year before they had a stripper and I had been advertised just as “A big surprise.” I think they were expecting something really nasty.
I did mostly humor for a half hour and they weren’t too bad an audience. Most of the attendees were foremen and laborers and they dug trenches for a living. In fact, they seemed so attentive that I decided to do a full forty minutes. I had agreed with their boss beforehand that I would do thirty minutes and see how it was going and if they were OK I might do a bit more. That was major error.
About thirty-three minutes into my talk one fellow who was pretty well in the bag picked up a chicken bone and threw it across the room at a fellow worker. The fellow got hit right on the face and he couldn’t see where the shot came from and so he simply picked up all of the chicken bones on his plate and threw them across the room in the general direction of where his attack had come from. Well that really started it. Tables were tipped over. Glasses and plates were flying everywhere. It was the darndest food fight I had ever witnessed. I headed for the door and so did their boss. He met me on the way out and handed me my check.
He was laughing. “Nice job, Art,” he said. “You should have quit at thirty minutes.”
Any time a corporation has a six hour open bar I make sure I know where the emergency exit is located.