Something about a dropping ball should make any performer nervous on New Year’s Eve, I would think.

I know.  You’ve probably already heard far more than you ever wanted to or imagined you would about Mariah’s monumental moment on New Year’s Eve.

A frustrating way to end 2016 for her, I’m sure.  Still a great lesson for all of us who go “on stage” in our work at various points.  And who in agency new business isn’t on stage at numerous times throughout the year?

Mariah’s muffed performance has been played back excessively this week.

But the lesson is not in a performance that did not go off as planned.  The lesson is in recovering from an unexpected blow to a performance; Ms. Carey did not recover.

The fact is the show CAN indeed go on as long as we can remain open to improvisation.  In a spirit of swapping war stories, a couple of my favorites follow:

They Earn their Three A’s for a Reason!

Years ago ,when I working in the produce industry marketing packaged salads, I was breaking in a new Sales Director on a presentation to the Kroger Detroit Division.

As we pulled into the Kroger parking lot, I asked him, “How many copies of the presentation did you bring along?”

We needed to figure out a “Plan B” quickly when the answer given was, “None”.   I had one copy I always carried with me on trips.  Including ourselves, eight people would be attending the meeting.  It was to be held in the Produce Merchandiser’s office.  No projection equipment involved.

Taking a deep breath as I let my gaze wander across the parking lot, I noticed a AAA office.  Turning to the Sales Director, I said, “Greg, we’re going to AAA.”

As members-in-need, we cajoled one of the staff into making the seven color sets of presentation copies we would need for the Kroger meeting.

Kroger gave us the order that day.

Harmony in the Save

If anything is better than wedding music performed exquisitely, it’s improvised wedding music performed exquisitely.

I play in an ensemble that periodically does weddings.  The bride had elected to have the wedding party enter to Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.  Throughout the piece, different instruments soloed the melody line.

Third bridesmaid into the wedding procession, the A-string broke on the violin soloing at the time. The violinist didn’t miss a beat.  She shifted position to cover notes from the D-String, and changed octaves as needed, until the cellist came in and picked up the solo.  No one in the congregation knew that what they heard was not played as intended.

Sheepishly, I say this: I have many more stories.


This isn’t self-congratulations on pushing through unexpected glitches at The Big Show.  When your career is long enough, you can expect to run into multiple Oh-God-No! moments when the performance really matters.  It simply happens.  Count on it.

A solution, an alternative, ALWAYS exists.  The trick is to prepare Plan B in advance.

First, know your “act” so very well, that you can switch to a back-up option seamlessly.  Second, make sure your team is thinking about what to do when glitches inevitably happen.  This takes preparation as a team as well.

Work with each other on “what-if” scenarios.  Just like a fire drill, rehearse what back up plans might be needed.  It’s inevitable that what really happens is not one of the nightmares anticipated.  However, even the simple process of thinking through potential performance disasters, and creating alternate plans will enable the team to recover quickly no matter what happens.

As your agency new business program builds steam in 2017, make sure it is snag-proof, at least in the eyes of the audience.

Always be thinking about how to keep the show going on, no matter how or when The Unexpected happens.

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Lee McKnight Jr
VP of Sales
I'm the VP of Sales at RSW/US. We specialize in working with services firms to help drive and close new business-if you need help with that, email me at lee@rswus.com. What I actually do: drive sales efforts to bring ad agencies and services firms on board with RSW, create content around successful new business tactics and help drive RSW/US marketing objectives, including social media channels, blog content, webinars, video and speaking engagements. Dig it.