"Is something wrong?" he asked.
"Not for me," I said. "I'm the facilitator today. I'll be doing most of the speaking and just wanted to check in with you on how things should run and anything I need to know before we start." We shook hands and introduced ourselves by name. "Are you with the American Association for the Advancement of Science?" he asked.
"No, I'm a hired gun," I said. "But I know you're the president of the American Association for the Advancement of My Slides, and that's all that matters to me."
That got me a big grin and amazing help all day. I knew to ask for Jim when he'd stepped out of the room, and he knew--after we'd talked some more--that I planned to roam the room, so he could better manage my mic and slides, and I knew my roaming range and what to do if something went wrong.
I get a lot of surprised looks when I hunt down and introduce myself to the slide advancer, the man with the mics, the catering manager or head waiter, the audio guy, the secretary who's handing people packets. Even moderators and conference organizers find themselves occasionally ignored or snubbed by speakers. But when I'm conducting a training, that receptionist, engineer or waiter might just be able to save me in the pinched moments when something's gone wrong. I can learn all sorts of useful information, from headcounts and how long lunch service will actually take to whether we can get last-minute copies made or a spare mic. So I wonder: How often do you take the time to greet, thank, and listen to the support team when you're the speaker?
Sure enough, that morning, a speaker who didn't take the time to run through logistics or meet the AV guy couldn't get his slides to work. After a quick word with the tech team, this facilitator called an impromptu five-minute break--exactly the amount of time the AV guy told me he'd need to set things right. Who loves you like that when you speak?