Why I Believe in Meeting Clients in Person
any Time You Can ©
Professional Speaker Magazine
by Rita Emmett
The flight in to Philly was one of those nightmarish
if-anything-can-go-wrong-it-will deals, and when I landed four hours
late that afternoon, I was feeling de-energized and down right
The next morning, I would be giving the
closing talk for the National Kidney Foundation (NFK)
in a joint session of Renal Professionals – doctors, nurses,
dieticians and social workers who work with kidney patients including
dialysis and transplants.
As usual, I was invited to attend the
banquet the evening before my talk; this one was a semi-formal awards
dinner. I strongly believe with all my heart and soul that it is
important to join social gatherings with clients prior to a talk BUT I
was tired, possibly coming down with a flu bug, and just didn’t feel
I started to talk myself out of it. I told
myself that I didn’t need to meet these clients, I certainly knew this
Since giving a free talk to Renal Nurses
three years ago, I was now being paid to fly all over the country
speaking to and getting to know each of theses groups of Renal
Professionals. As part of my preparation, I had called seven leaders
of this conference ahead of time and picked their brains about the
challenges, stresses and joys of working in this field. I had worked
hard at personalizing my talk, my handouts and my AV materials.
Yes, I knew this audience very, very well;
I’d done my homework, and perhaps could skip this chance to meet more
Renal Professionals personally.
Then, at the last minute, I decided that
they deserved "my giving them my best", so I dressed up and went to
the before-dinner cocktail party. The first person I met, I asked,
"Where do you work?"
She said, "Sears."
I was surprised. "Aren’t you a Renal
"No, I’m a kidney transplant patient. Our
association, the NFK TransAction Council, is invited to ‘piggy back’
the NKF Conference. We attend any of their sessions we want, so we can
learn the latest in the field about what’s happening to our bodies.
Plus we run educational sessions of our own and have a chance to
I was astounded. "Will you be at the
closing talk tomorrow?"
"Oh yes, we can attend everything. They
are very generous."
I had not a clue that they’d be part of my
audience, and couldn’t believe I’d missed this information. Besides
the seven people I’d interviewed, I’d had many phone conversations
with the meeting planner, the person who was to introduce me, and the
"I’m the speaker for tomorrow’s closing
talk, and had NO idea that you’d be part of the
audience!" I stammered.
"Do you know that the NFK National Donor
Family Council has the same invitation and
privileges transplant recipients do?"
She then took me by the arm and led me
over to and introduced me to a donor family. These
are courageous, generous people who have had a beloved family member
die, and they have donated organs to others who need them.
Members of the National Donor Family
Council travel around giving talks promoting organ donation awareness.
Because they have told their stories so many times, these family
members were able to tell me with dry eyes and no self-pity about
their loved ones who had passed away– what they were like and how they
died – and they told me stories of meeting some of the people who
received the donated organs.
They told of a teen-aged son’s donations
going to five different people. His dad talked about meeting the woman
who could now see because of his son’s donation, and of meeting the
young mother who now had their son’s heart pumping blood through her
Two and a half buckets of tears later, I
left that social gathering deeply touched at the honor and privilege
to have met so many courageous transplant patients and donor families
in addition to the terrific Renal Professionals I anticipated meeting.
I went back to my room and without much
effort, was able to re-craft my talk and add some personalized
material to include these other two associations that I didn’t know
would be there. And I thanked God I had run in to them at the social
And once again I renewed my commitment to
spend any time I can in meeting the clients
– whether at a meal prior to the talk, or a social gathering the day
before, or simply arriving early to have time to chat before a
presentation – because it is through hearing their stories in person
that I’m often able to add the personalization to the talk that they
love and appreciate so much.