Risk Management

Servicing the Speaker

As told by Sandy Biback, CMP

About 25 years ago, I was planning a two-day seminar in a large U.S. city for my telecommunications employer. I’d done my scouting (we didn’t have listservs or Internet in those days!) and chosen a fine hotel in the center of the city that would accommodate about 150 people. My manager at the time was responsible for educational content, and once he had hired the speakers, I took over.

When I got on site the day before the meeting was to begin, everything was in place. I went over the BEOs again with my sales manager, and we were all set for the next morning. Ever the efficient one, I even set up a meet-and-greet dinner for all my speakers that evening at a restaurant that my sales manager had suggested. My immediate manager wasn’t flying in until much later that evening, so I was on my own with 12 men in the telecommunications field who were staying at the host hotel.

After a lovely dinner (I had no alcohol; I had learned that lesson long ago — but that’s another story), we all walked back to the hotel. One of the speakers asked if I could come up to his room to check something about his presentation the next day (this was in the days before PowerPoint), and I was pretty naïve, so I said yes.

I hesitated to go into his room, so I stood in the doorway and asked him to bring the slides (yes, slides!) over to me. He stopped and said what he really wanted from me was a call girl for the evening. I should get him one, he said, or he wasn’t going to speak the next day.

My jaw dropped, and I told him no, that wasn’t part of my job. He again refused to speak the next day. I’m sure I could have suggested he talk to the concierge, but I held my moral ground.

He did end up speaking the next day.

Did he ever get his call girl? I don’t know — I stayed quite clear of him for the duration. I told my manager what had transpired, and he acted like a buffer between us.

That person never spoke at one of our seminars again.



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