15 Minutes Left
Have you been dreaming awake at some point? Fantasizing about having a date with that special person. Planning what you would wear and where you would go. Rehearsing your first words and even simulating her reply. Living an illusion which grows more and more as the days pass, and makes you think about your dream with a mixture of excitement and nervousness.
What if that day had arrived? And you were in the place you agreed upon, and after even arriving an hour early (just in case), the hour you agreed upon is there and she… doesn´t appear.
If you would have been there with me on November 14th in the EXPO room of “Pakhus de ZWIJGER”, you would have seen all those emotions reflected on my face.
15 minutes to start. In the centre of the stage, a big PowerPoint that would put the audience in situation. The projector, sound system, flipchart and dry pens. They couldn´t have given me a better room. The huge window that goes from one end of the room to the other and the echo of my shoes on the floor made it look even bigger.
A little desk, a glass of water and a tray of chocolates; 3 of them wrapped in newspaper, placed in one end of the tray, clearly separated from the rest. And chairs, most of all, a lot of chairs. A room full of chairs and completely……. EMP-TY.
15 minutes to begin and the only assistant was right in front of me. The reflection in the window of the speaker that staring at me seemed to be asking me:
“So well, are you going to keep waiting there or are you going to do something to make things happen?”
Almost one kilo of Swiss chocolates, I was definitely not carry them back to Barcelona. So taking the tray with my left hand and with my best smile I started the experiment with which I would have started my workshop.
Going up and down the stairs in the whole building looking for my public, approaching everybody that crossed my way. Waiters, receptionists, organizers, assistants of the conference and people that just where there out of coincidence. Those that were lost, those that were looking for somebody and the one who was looking for the bathroom and couldn´t find it. All of them I asked:
“Excuse me!, May I offer you a chocolate to welcome you to my workshop?”
Unfortunately, none of them spoke Spanish (the language the workshop would be presented), and the idea that they could take it as their first free Spanish class, did not seem very persuasive to them.
Nevertheless, Swiss chocolate did.
Red, blue, green, yellow. One by one, two by two, not one could be saved, all of them started disappearing. All of them, unless the 3 on one side that were ruled out with the first glance.
While I was trying to sell my workshop to a group of 3 people, Eleonore Breukel came up to me and said:
“Mario, you have to get down to the room. It´s time to start.”
On just a little bit more that 20cm wide stairs and in what seemed to be a circus balancing exercise, I went down the stairs with the few chocolates that were left rolling like marbles from one side to the other on the tray.
To my surprise, when I entered the room it was almost full.
While the last ones were taking their seats (and even with the possibility to ruin the opening of my workshop), I decided to take the risk one more time and offer the last chocolates to the public.
Henri Mathon (the best ally I could have had) took the stage to welcome everyone and opened the workshop. He presented me, and pointing to the tray in my hand, I start:
“Maybe, some of you have noticed that I have started my workshop with a little experiment.”
People were looking at each other with Incertitude, some of them still eating their chocolates, others looking at the wrapping they had in their hands.
“Red, Green, Blue, Yellow… it doesn´t matter which color you chose, you all have responded to the experiment the same way.”
Taking and showing them one of the 2 (*) chocolates wrapped in newspaper that were left on the tray, I continued:
“Because as the reporter Javier Reyero says:
“ Nobody buys chocolates wrapped up in newspaper ”
It does not matter how good your chocolate is, your speech, your product. If what you have to offer does not catch your audience attention from the very start… guess who will end up eating them?”
And this is how I began my first workshop at The Toastmaster District 59 Autumn Conference 2015.
What a great Experience! I feel fortunate to have been part of this and been able to say out loud and with proud:
“I was there!”
To be able to construct new bridges in Amsterdam with interesting , generous and inspiring people like James Sorlie, Eleonor Breukel, Marcel Hamsey, Percy Roland, Nacho Arenas, Ana Gonzalez, Sangbreeta Moitra, Tulia Lopez, Jack Vincent (who moreover had the kindness to autograph his book for me) .
A big event to which many decided to assist because it helped them find this sensation of being important, of being special, to feel that they matter.
Maybe you were one of them, or maybe you were one of those who attended because you love this feeling of community, and being there helped you strengthen that feeling of belonging, the feeling that you are part of a team.
Or maybe because you were looking for a change, and you wanted to give, to serve, you wanted to contribute and make a difference, you wanted to grow, expand yourself and feel that you are one step closer to your goal. Because you know that you have to do it or you will stay stuck watching how others make progress and evolve around you. And you know that change frightens your competitors, but not you.
And nevertheless, whatever was your motive, there is something we all agree upon, and this is that why “The Autumn District Conference” was an enriching experience. It was a place for learning, experimentation, training, fun, gratefulness, celebration and most of all gratitude.
“The Autumn District Conference” was an enriching experience. It was a place for learning, experimentation, training, fun, gratefulness, celebration and most of all gratitude.
Gratitude to the whole team that made this possible, to those “Superheroes”, that like the dark knight working between shadows, made that everything flowed with ease during the whole conference.
Gratitude to people like Henry Mathon, who from minute 0, in the preparations one month ahead of the conference, as in the same day of the workshop, has made sure that nothing was missing. He made sure I felt that everything was under control and there was nothing to worry about.
I couldn’t have had a better room, a better ally, nor a better audience.
What?! You say I am going too far!
First Workshop in Spanish that took place in a Toastmasters District Conference. No one knew me in Amsterdam, on Saturday, after lunch, at 2,30 pm… Yes! I have no doubt, it was the best audience I could have had.
3 days, that marked a before and after in my career and in which the added force and talents of so many people, made clear again what an old African proverb says:
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
(*) Yes, 2. It’s not a mere courtesy when I say that Henry Mathon was the best ally I could have had.
Thanks for keeping the secret Henry, I owe you one.
Mario Mera (Mario1)
Vice President of Education of Sagrada Familia (SFT)