Of the many critical things I was taught as a fireman that I have since applied to just about every other aspect of my life, this one ranks pretty high. Here it is: always have a second way out of the room.
In the case of fighting a fire, there is no guarantee that the door or window or hole that you used to enter the room will be available to get you out. Part of the ceiling could close it off, for instance. Or it could suddenly turn into a wall of smoke…or fire.
So, enter the room and immediately find your alternate. Best case, it shouldn’t be a second choice, you know? You don’t want to turn around and see the way you came in to be impassible and think, “Aw man, now I have to get out that way.” Nope, choice two needs to be viable, essentially ‘doable’, so that there’s no hesitation as you move towards it.
This can be a little challenging. Sometimes, you have to look really hard to find the second choice, because there just aren’t that many options available.
Corporate meetings have both the same and the exact opposite problem.
It’s the exact opposite because when it comes to booking speakers, for instance, for your conference, there are a zillion to choose from. It’s the exact same because we, humans, tend to get very attached to option one—our first choice, the way we came in. Why? Because it’s right there! We know it! We’ve vetted it, talked about it, you name it….it’s already done.
But here’s the thing: there’s no guarantee that the speaker will come through. There’s a myriad of things that could come up between the booking time and show time. Including the fact that when you reach out, the speaker in question says ‘no’. This is true for most any element of a show. Original entertainment ideas might not work for budget reasons, a key speaker may decline a staging idea, an executive might be unavailable for a video shoot.
And when these prized, first choice elements fall through, it hurts, it’s hard to breathe. Gets you right in the gut…unless you have that second choice. Or a third and fourth. Just waiting in the wings. Not as lesser stand-ins, but as shining ‘YES!’s all on their own, guiding you out of a smoky, hot room and into the relief of a great meeting.