Momentum, Passion and Transformation

Gail Davis, 01 October 2010

By Gail Davis

Nando In 1994 I was issued a challenge from the chairman of EDS, Les Alberthal. He asked me to find a speaker that was new and different- someone everyone would like to hear and someone who was international in appeal. It is a story I never tire of telling. For six months in a pre-Google era, I searched and searched to no avail. Finally my dad offered a great suggestion and I went through the Uruguayan embassy to find Nando Parrado. Good idea but not as easy as you might think. They told me they could not give me his number but shared he had a television show in Montevideo. Speaking Spanish, I navigated my way through the phone maze at the tv station and eventually had the number for Nando’s office. I called. He answered. And from that moment on, both of our lives changed dramatically.

After much convincing, I got Nando to speak at the EDS sales incentive event in Maui, Hawaii. It was the wildest success one could imagine. It was even suggested that I retire because everyone agreed I would not be able to top the success with Nando. My friendship with Nando and his wife continued to flourish. I made a trip to Uruguay with my entire family. Nando thought the EDS deal was a onetime situation. However, his wife Veronique and I could not get over the impact he had on the event attendees and the letters and faxes that followed. We both felt there was a reason Nando survived and that he had a message the world needed to hear.

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Partnerships

Gail Davis, 09 August 2010

When I was starting my company, I toyed with the idea of having a partner. I interviewed several successful entrepreneurs to discuss the pros and cons of going it alone or having a business partner. I remember my friend Jo Kling of Landry & Kling telling me that the best part of having a business partner is there is always another person there helping you row the boat. In the end, I did not base my business on a partnership model. The ironic part of it is partnerships are a key ingredient to the success we have experienced.

Looking back over the last 12 years, I can clearly say that we have been fortunate to have client relationships that feel more like partnerships. We have been invited to strategy sessions and events. We are made to feel that our experience and recommendations are key to the overall success of our clients’ events. The same is true on the speaker side of the house. We have speakers we have booked consistently throughout our company history. There is no doubt that we have forged our way by having a mutual respect and understanding of each other.

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An Epic Trip

Gail Davis, 08 July 2010

CruiseThis blog may not have as many specific hints for planning events or selecting speakers, but what I hope it does say is that each experience we have helps establish and create our frame of reference. Each relationship we develop with vendors is an expansion of our ability to create. Continuing to experience new things keeps us fresh but maintaining our relationships gives us trusted advisors with experience. Mixing it up ensures we do not get stale … so read on for some first-hand experience of new venues and ideas!

It’s all about ideas, relationships and people……at least that is my perspective when it comes to the world of incentives, events and creating memorable experiences.

This weekend I was in New York for the Norwegian Cruise Line Epic inaugural cruise. I was exposed to a new ship while being reunited with some people I have known in this business for many years.

The Epic is NCL’s largest and newest ship in their fleet.

Given its size (it can accommodate just over 4,000 passengers) and it has a lot of offer. Some of the concepts are unique. It has an area for travelers sailing solo. Traditional cruise ship pricing is based on double occupancy in a cabin. On most cruise lines you pay 1.5 if you are traveling alone. The Epic has some small studio type cabins designed for single travelers and an area called the Studio Living Room where those utilizing this new concept can congregate for coffee.

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Tom Martinez- A Story of Hate, A Message of Hope

Gail Davis, 06 July 2010

Tom MartinezWow! I was almost numb after hearing Tom Martinez, a former hate group member, speak at a recent, client event in Dallas. Tom visited our office earlier in the day but that was like dipping only your toe in the pool. The event was full immersion.

The venue helped create the atmosphere for soaking up his story. My client selected the Holocaust Museum in Dallas. It was a somber location that reminded us all of the devastation when you combine hate and a lack of education.

Tom is a genuine and likeable guy. He does an amazing job of explaining how and why he was seduced by a hate group. He paints the picture of being a young husband with a new baby and trying to make ends meet while working at a bakery earning minimum wage. You can see how this welcoming brotherhood that offered support and monetary gain had a strong appeal.

Tom begins his presentation with a movie trailer from the Showtime original picture the Brotherhood of Murder, which stars Peter Gallagher and William Baldwin and is based on Tom’s autobiography. He has recently developed PowerPoint presentations that include several photos of various leaders and events associated with The Order. He also has some music clips at the end that demonstrate the use of music lyrics in furthering a message of hate.

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Kids and Speakers

Gail Davis, 25 May 2010

nando parradoWe have all been there. Sitting in an audience hearing a compelling message and wishing our children had the opportunity to experience the message.

I have two sons in their 20s. They have grown up hearing speakers. I have taken Nando Parrado to their middle school, varsity football team locker rooms … they’ve had incredible opportunities.

I have seen a trend that more and more companies and associations are inviting entire families to hear speakers or adding an additional session with the speaker for children of employees or members.

So the question arises, when is an event is appropriate for children? How do you decide if the topic and content is family friendly?

Step #1: Ask the speaker. The speaker knows their topic and the considerations. Get their input. If they give you a minimum age, respect and enforce it.

I have several speakers who welcome kids but have identified minimum age limits. It is frustrating when an attendee thinks that the age limit cannot possible apply to their child. Why ask if you aren’t going to honor it?

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Ethics

Gail Davis, 11 May 2010

Gail DavisRemember when you were a kid and you learned that it was easier not to lie and that if you always tell the truth you don’t have to remember what you have said?

I am glad my parents taught me that, and I am glad I have used that principle of integrity in running my own business. Operating an ethical business is so much less stressful. Our industry model is to receive a 50% deposit upon signing of a contract. Then, the final payment is due just before the speaking engagement.

We have set up our accounting at GDA so that these deposits go into an “escrow” type account and we NEVER touch the deposits. We treat them as refundable client deposits because in the event that a speaker has to cancel and we are unable to find a suitable replacement, then that money is due back to our clients. We have never gotten in to any trouble by spending deposits due to the fact that we simply do not allow those monies to commingle.

We also hold firm to getting the final payment in before the speech. Although it is sometimes not easily understood by a new client, I simply explain to them that I am not going to ask a speaker to get on a plane to give a speech unless I know we have the money in hand. I run a speaker’s bureau not a collection agency. That way, we are able to maintain great relationships with our speakers since we show our respect to them by paying each speaker on a timely basis.

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