Are you listening?
I have spent most of my adult years in the public eye; whether due to my career as a media person. live event emcee or my life as an activist and organizer. Thankfully, I have also spent many of my childhood years on a stage with a mic in my hand (I was raised in a band family) so I am pretty fearless when it comes to public speaking. In fact, I think I am at my best and most-loved when I am on a stage, behind a podium or with a mic in my hand talking to the masses.
Public speaking allows me to exude a presence at the same time people only have to take me in small doses, otherwise my personality can oftentimes be overwhelming to some and by my own admission I can be a hard pill to swallow in large doses.
When I left corporate media and started doing my own thing I began hosting live events all over town. These events were weekly, the towns were relatively close-knit and the money was great. I met a lot of great people and many of the women (and even some of the men) I encountered in my business world thought I had some sort of glamorous life being on a stage all of the time and wanted to work for me. Little did they realize it takes a certain kind of personality to do what I do and do it well.
As my business grew I needed to hire help to run the events. I was having health issues and was very overworked. Add to that, I was also caring for my dying mother at this time so I wasn’t just over worked, I was over-wrought altogether and simply needed help if I wanted to keep my business alive and growing.
At first I had a client — who was also my roommate, fill in once or twice for me emcee’ing a couple of events so that I could take a break and heal. My kidney was a mess and I was passing stones. I had been holding my own, but it was taking a major toll and I needed a break. Unfortunately, although this woman had a great and fun personality she couldn’t control it once she had a mic in her hand and was on stage with all eyes on her.
When hosting live events you do have to have a great personality and be able to work the crowd however, when you crack that mic and interrupt their fun you need to get on, tell them what you are gonna tell them and then get off and let them resume said fun.
Sadly, this well-intentioned fill-in didn’t know when to get off and to make matters worse, she thought it was OK to tell the venue’s staff what to do and how to do it…mind you, I said the “venue’s” staff, not my (or her) staff.
I had to do a little butt-kissing after that with my venue client and assure him I would never, ever let this woman run one of my shows again.
And, I didn’t.
But, I still needed help. Especially as the days got closer to my mom actually passing, so I was on a mission to find someone who could do the job right and not cost me business and venues in the end.
I interviewed a dozen or so women and a couple of men for the position of my personal assistant. After a couple of weeks of interviews I chose one of the guys and one woman in particular. The guy was a bit of a chauvinist however I knew the women at the events would love him, ironically he was a no-show his first day and I never saw him again. The woman on the other hand…she was beautiful, she appeared to be a hard worker, was well-connected in town and she had good business sense and I knew her.
The woman I chose to work for me had been one of my clients and she was very familiar with my events and how they played out every week. I mistakenly thought I had found the perfect person to fill my shoes in my absence. She had everything it took, or so I thought…
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
There is an art to emcee’ing any live event. A balance must be found that moves the event or show forward at the same time it entertains those attending. Not everyone can do it for myriad reasons. We are all familiar with “stage-fright” and what that means, but my new-hire taught me a new one altogether.
This lovely lady — who otherwise had always been a fun upbeat a person people gravitated towards was unexpectedly flat and personality-less the minute she stepped onto a stage and had a mic in her hand. It was amazing, and not in an “OMG-I-can’t-wait-to-see-that-again” way.
I couldn’t believe it of course so I put it down to first-time jitters although she didn’t come off as nervous, just kind of dumb like she had suddenly sprung blonde roots.
Take Two, week two. Truly a “lather-rinse-repeat” moment. What was happening here? This wasn’t stage fright.
As it turned out, this woman never was able to manage the mic. I gave her a shot many times and finally (at the attendees and venue owners request) took her off.
She was good at something though, she was great at making sales so I kept her on and brought on yet another female client who had been hounding to help.
This one had it all. Her personality was as over-the-top and out there as mine, she was also as good-looking as the other one (I had a Charlies Angels thing going in hindsight). That over-the-top personality got her in hot water on night one.
As part of the deal I made with this particular venue, my event was timed to have Karaoke follow because I like to sing and the idea was that if I stayed after my event to sing, so would some of my event attendees; this is indeed how it would go each week. So night-one with employee number two ends with wrapping up my event and settling in to do a little singing.
I am up first and belt out KT Tunstal’s Black Horse and a Cherry Tree. Employee number one follows and whispers out Nancy Sinatra‘s These Boots Were Made for Walking in her I-think-I-sound-sexy-like-this (and she did), little girl voice. When she finished, the KJ announces a drink special and says she is taking a 5-minute break and so-and-so would be up next.
“So-and-so” was my new employee number two. The KJ didn’t mention what she would be singing, but this woman went into the lady’s room and said she was going to change out of what she wore to work my event.
I didn’t think nothing of it. For the most part, the karaoke crowd was different from those at my event so I figured she wanted to be more comfortable. What I didn’t figure was what that might mean.
The KJ returned to the stage and starts calling employee number two’s name. She was still in the bathroom, but upon hearing her name she came out dressed in some of the thinnest, lowest, tightest, black, latex pants I have ever seen. They were paired with a bright orange halter that had noting more holding it on than a thin gold chain across the back. She was also obviously without a bra.
My surprise quickly turned to horror as she stepped up onto the stage and the music began. Employee number two proceeded to squeak out the lyrics to 2 Live Crew’s Me So Horny while gyrating her hips and making suggestive motions and sounds to the audience.
I was floored to say the least. Granted, we were in a bar however, MY event that had just finished was a weekly business event whose attendees where business owners and my clients from around town. You can imagine I was more than just beside myself at the inappropriateness of what was going down.
I tried to give this woman another chance or two, but she was the opposite of number one. She couldn’t sell. In fact, she couldn’t work. For her, it was all about the perceived “glamour” and the she was just looking for her 15-minutes-of-fame not caring at whose expense it came.
These days, I spend little time behind a mic. Not because i don’t like it — because I do, but because I live a different life where my biggest audience hears what I say — not because I am being broadcast on a radio station or on a PA system, but because they are reading my words.