Last Monday, I encountered something which blew my mind.
I was in Manhattan for a 140-person corporate trivia event in New York City, which was to be hosted that evening by comedian, podcaster & former NPR Ask Me Another host Ophira Eisenberg, whom I’ve had an event partnership with for many years now.
As I was sipping my morning coffee, my cell phone rang.
It was Ophira.
“David,” she said, “I’m in Nantucket, where I was hosting a film festival all weekend. My flight last night back to NYC got bumped to this morning, and I was just informed that it’s now been cancelled.”
My heart sank. When you’re in the event production and corporate entertainment business like I am, the chances of something like this happening always lurks in the background. I’d be lying if I said a part of me isn’t relieved every time my emcee (or I, for that matter) arrives to the venue on time and ready to rock. So to get a call like this on the morning of a large event, for an important client who’s been eagerly looking forward to an appearance by a celebrity emcee, well…it was tough.
I steeled myself for what I thought was coming next: Ophira backing out last-minute.
Instead, I was floored by what she said:
“I’m currently boarding the ferry back to mainland, and have rented a car – assuming minimal traffic, I estimate to arrive to the venue right at showtime.”
Now, try to put yourself in Ophira’s shoes. You’ve just wrapped up a weekend-long gig hosting a film festival. It’s a dreary, drizzly morning on Nantucket. Your flight the night before was delayed, and now it’s been cancelled completely. The trivia gig you’ve signed on to host starts that evening in Manhattan, and you’re stuck on an island 300 miles away.
I don’t know about you, but if it were me, backing out of the gig would’ve definitely crossed my mind.
After the ferry landed in Eastern Massachusetts, she drove over 5 straight hours to Lower Manhattan, arriving an hour earlier than expected. Along the way, she diligently sent me texts as to her status, which I reported back to the client. Once at the venue, she reviewed her notes, conducted a sound check, and hit the stage without missing a beat – performing a hilarious stand-up comedy set before diving into 90 minutes of team trivia. The event was a huge hit, our client was thrilled – and so was I.
How do you sum up the above in a single word? Professionalism.
What is Professionalism?
When I think of what it means to be a professional in this (or any) business, several descriptive words come to mind:
The old adage “the show must go on” is rooted in this concept, that short of an Act of God, the performance MUST happen: when you commit to something, you see it through no matter what.
When someone says they’re going to do something, they have a choice: they can either do it, or not. As a business owner, I seek out those whom I have faith in to carry out their responsibilities they’ve been assigned. I’m blessed in this sense, in that I’ve found people whom I’ve been working with for years and years whom I can count on to not only show up 100% of the time, but to give it their all and deliver a top-notch performance, regardless of what else might be going on in their lives.
To me, that’s professionalism.
Why Professionalism Matters
In the years I’ve been doing this, I can count on one hand (possibly two) the number of times that an emcee or producer I’ve assigned to work a gig has had to back out. With one notable exception, the performer had something which truly prevented them from being able to show up to the event: a medical issue, an unavoidable last-minute conflict, a once-in-a-lifetime professional opportunity (and even then, they ASKED me if they could be released, rather than simply backing out). In most of these cases, I didn’t even have to find a replacement because they themselves had arranged one.
Professional? You’d better believe it!
As an employer putting performers in front of MY clients, representing MY brand, I have to know that I can depend on the people I hire. Why? Because the client is depending on ME to fulfill my obligations. I suppose you could say professional responsibility has a trickle-down effect. It’s for this reason that I recommend you only hire a professional emcee for a trivia event, not a bar trivia host.
It’s not a contractual or financial issue I’m raising here, mind you. My service contract clearly states that should TrivWorks ever have to cancel an event due to the performer being unable to appear, that I provide a full refund (which, knock on wood, I’ve NEVER had to do in 15 years of doing this). Rather, it’s a reputation issue. Would you want to enter into an agreement with a corporate entertainment vendor with a history of backing out of event commitments?
Neither would I.
I was incredibly grateful to Ophira for seeing this event through, but even more so I was unbelievably impressed by the level of professionalism and commitment she displayed. It would have been so easy (and understandable) for her to say, “David, I feel horrible doing this, but I’m stuck on this island, there’s no flights and there’s just no way I can make it back to Manhattan by showtime. I’m so sorry but I have to back out.”
But she didn’t do that.
She saw the event through, even if it meant spending the entire day in a car. She arrived with plenty of time to spare, and gave a killer performance. The client knows TrivWorks will ALWAYS deliver, and I shall NEVER doubt Ophira’s commitment when she signs on to work with me—hopefully sometime in the very near future.
The show must go on!
Here’s a fun clip of Ophira performing stand-up comedy, to give you an idea of why she’s so popular as a TrivWorks emcee: