It was December 15th, 1989, my final speech booking of my busiest year yet as a professional speaker and I was booked for a full day of speeches in the Catskill Mountains in New York.
Here is how Dennis H McLean, Superintendent of their Margaretville, New York School summed it up.
“Dear Art, Our school and community at this little mountain town were touched by your inspirational program on Self-Esteem. Your speeches and poetry were enjoyed by people from five to ninety-five years old as witnessed by your visit to the skilled nursing facility at the local hospital and by our young people, kindergarten through senior high school. Best wishes to you and keep up the good work.”
I’d made ten presentations that day, the most ever, and when I arrived back home in Battle Creek, Michigan my throat was sore and voice was gone. I decided to get to a specialist immediately and luckily got right in to see a throat doctor. She explained that I had strained my vocal cords and prescribed an inhalant. She said I must not talk for at least two weeks. “No talking at all.” She said. “If you do you might permanently damage your vocal cords.”
I had a silent Christmas and on the 26th I received an urgent phone call from a Booking Agent in Charlotte, North Carolina. She explained that the DuPont plant at Kinston, North Carolina had a speaker cancel out for their Safety Kickoff, January 3rd, 4th and 5th.
I swear I limited my conversation to four or five words. “Yes” I had the dates open. “Yes” she had my top fee right plus travel. “Yes” she would e-mail me a confirmation and “Thank You!”
I hung up the phone and realized that DuPont was the #1 corporation in America in Safety and I recalled that the Kinston Plant held the all time record for safety. What an honor to be working for the best of the best.
I began praying extra hard. I still hadn’t talked on my way to Kinston and I arrived early in the morning and met with the sound crew. I was both anxious and scared and a guy named Mike was in charge. I explained to him about the trouble with my throat and how I needed his help. His response was music to my ears. “No problem, man! If you can whisper I can make you sound like radio broadcaster Paul Harvey. With our equipment I can turn up the volume and give you some echo and we’ll do fine.”
I did nine presentations in three days and this is what John & Libby, the folks in charge of the Safety Kickoff at Dupont wrote me.
“Dear Art: Thank you for the excellent job you did at our Kinston DuPont Site 1990 Safety Kickoff and Business Meeting. We particularly appreciate the effort you made to meet our requirements on such short notice.
You were well received by all of our employees. Your message was so sincere because it came from your personal experiences. Most of the time the audience was spellbound. I asked several of our employees to give me a one-word description of your presentation. They choose entertaining, humorous, sobering, inspiring, uplifting, rewarding, rejuvenating and caring. All were very complimentary of both your formal presentations and your casual break-time conversations.
You put an enormous amount of energy into your work and it pays dividends in the impact you have on those who come in contact with you. Keep up the good work.”
We will definitely recommend you to others in our company and community who are looking for an energetic, well-informed professional speaker.”
That was 27 years ago and I haven’t stopped speaking since.