Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I Walked Out On Frank Sinatra!

Frank Sinatra Hollywood starImage via Wikipedia
I once walked out of a Frank Sinatra performance. 

It was July 30, 1982. Mr. Sinatra was the headliner for the New Universal Amphitheatre. This was an opening night benefit performance, complete with Hollywood legends being interviewed on the red carpet, 6200 guests in total including my husband and me - compliments of my husband’s employer Atlantic Richfield (ARCO). The comedian Charlie Callas opened for Frank Sinatra. He was his usual entertaining self. And then suddenly Mr. Sinatra strolled on to the stage and was welcomed with a standing ovation.

We settled back into our seats, the orchestra started to play and HE began to sing. He sang all the familiar songs, but something didn’t seem right. And then we realized that he was reading the words, not from a teleprompter, but from sheet music that was propped up on his music stand. He fumbled lyrics and really didn’t seem to engage with the audience of his peers and fans. Finally, as he reached the end of the first set he started to sing “New York, New York” --the crowd got to their feet -- but still he had to read the lyrics.  And as he finished, my husband and I looked at each other and we knew we were leaving.  Yep...we got up and left. The “professional” was not prepared!

Are you wondering why I am telling you this story?  Well, there are some on-line discussions, maybe more than a few, going on regarding last week’s Closing Keynote at Blog World New York.  I wasn’t there. I wanted to attend Blog World New York; however, prior commitments made it impossible. But I am familiar with the Closing Keynote Talk Show format having attended Blog World 2009 and Blog World 2010. I was very impressed with the 2010 Closing Keynote Talk Show “New Media Live” hosted by Rob Barnett, who interviewed Adam Corolla, Penn Jillette, Jeffrey Hayzlett and Cali Lewis. It was informative, interesting, entertaining and sometimes very funny.

But I am not here to talk about 2010, I want to offer what might be some simple observations about what many are calling a cringe -provoking event and what one tweet summed up like this: 

"Grateful to those of you who hung out at #bweny for the closing keynote. Enjoy your party! I'm flying home. :)"
  1.  I don’t think the problem had much to do with the presenters, the subject matter, the content, but more about the presentation itself.  When you “book” a keynote “act” (and don’t kid yourself - a keynote is an “act”), you are paying for a professional performance. The lighting needs to be programmed, the sound system needs to be tested, the orchestra needs to be rehearsed, and someone needs to “call” the show. To invite five “professionals” to a stage who may never have presented together in the past and expect it to just work is playing with fire. This is live theatre and anything can happen, but your preparation has to be spot on. 
  2. I might be wrong, but I suspect most people in the audience would have been just fine with the adult language (edgy content), if they were watching a polished show with context. Do you really think people walk out on Lewis Black or Bill Maher or Sarah Silverman or Chris Rock or Dennis Miller? What would make people walk out is that they don’t want to watch a train is just too painful. Not unlike me watching Frank Sinatra 29 years ago.
  3. People commenting on this topic have talked about how they are professionals attending a conference of bloggers, professionals, and business owners. Can we look-up the definition for “professional?”  It does not necessarily imply educational status, advanced degrees. A professional is anyone who conforms to the technical and ethical standards of a profession. More importantly, if you are being paid you have moved from amateur status to professional status. It is about showing up on time, prepared and performing the task that you are being paid to do. It is less about what you do for a living, and more about how well you do it and how effortlessly you “seem” to do it.
This on-line conversation will probably continue for a few more days. I know that Rick Calvert, Dave Cynkin, Deb Ng and the entire Blog World team will learn from Blog World New York. Every year they fine-tune their product. They are observant and sensitive to what they see and hear.  I, for one, look forward to meeting up with the whole crew this November when the curtain goes up on Blog World LA!

Your think about it.  I would love your input.

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