September 2014 STS – President’s Message

President’s Message Bob_Parker
Bob Parker, CSP

I’m so grateful to be on the inside of great knowledge than on the outside in a world of ignorance.

For the 6th year in row I have volunteered to staff the CAPS’s booth at the Incentive Works Show in Toronto. This is a two-day trade show attended by a few thousand meeting planners from across Canada held each year in August. We promote our membership directory and the value of hiring our members to meeting planners. This is one of a few trade shows CAPS attends each year to raise our members profile in the industry.

From time-to-time, we have people approach our booth who are not meeting planners, but instead speakers, and express an interest in knowing more about the benefits of membership in CAPS. This year was no exception. I had quite a few conversations about membership with some aspiring and established speakers, however one in particular gave me a reflection moment on the value of my membership in CAPS.

As this particular gentleman approached, he immediately shared that he was a speaker, and would like to know more about CAPS. Now for those that know me, my usual first question of a fellow speaker is not to ask them, ‘What do you speak about?’ but instead engage in some other sort of conversation starter and work up to that topic usually by inquiring about their area of expertise. Something about him however threw me off my game. Perhaps it was his ill fitted, disheveled shirt showing far too many stray chest hairs for my taste that shook me, or his smug, over-confident demeanor that had me thinking, ‘Outdoor Survival Expert. I’m not sure of the exact inspiration, but I just blurted out, “What do YOU speak about?”

With a toothy grin, he replied, “What would you like me to speak about?”

“Ugh…” I thought to myself. Why didn’t I go with inquiring about his area of expertise? I know better than to ask that question and I almost deserved that answer.  In the same moment that I was disappointed with myself, I was extremely disappointed with his answer.

The challenge, of course, is that we sometimes fight for position on the platform with those that think speaking is the product we are selling, when in reality, it is only a delivery method. Those that are on the inside of this great information, good meeting planners included, know that it is expertise that is the key to a viable and successful business in this industry. This is why we are the association of ‘experts who speak professionally’.

The rest of my conversation with him went fine until our last moment when it took a turn for the worse. With pride he mentioned his forthcoming book, and I quickly took up the suggestion that CAPS was full of members and programming that could share insights on how to market and promote his book.

“Oh, I don’t have to worry about that, my publishing company will take care of it,” he shared with his smug ignorance.

I sighed. “I don’t know who your publishing company is, though may I share some insights that I have learned from CAPS on that topic?”

“Sure,” he said.

“Your publishing company will do very little to promote your book, that is up to you,” I shared.

“We are done!” he exclaimed, ending our conversation abruptly. He turned to his left down the stairs exiting the building leaving me standing there to ponder our encounter. Did I say something wrong?

Perhaps he was not looking for a coaching moment. I’ll own that. It is also possible, someone else shared this with him, and he didn’t like the answer then also. I really don’t know. Here is what I do know. “I’m so grateful to be on the inside of great knowledge than on the outside in a world of ignorance.” Thank you CAPS!


  1. Thanks Bob, I took two things away from your message today.
    1. Even amazing speakers can say the wrong thing, or be lost for words.
    2. There are still many types of speakers, one that takes the stage for their own glory instead of speaking with a powerful message for the audience. I think this man, is probably speaking for himself.
    Thanks for sharing.


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