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Don't Kick the Bucket

[Warning: Although this post is about eating, it might be best if it wasn’t read while eating.]

What do you and your team do the night before the big show? Do you hold a three-course sit down affair at the meeting venue and invite everybody who had anything at all to do with the project (“Will that be the fish or the fillet, sir?”). Maybe it’s just the speakers or the AV crew going out to the Applebee’s across the street for a quick bite.

However simple or complex it turns out to be, getting a bunch of people together the night before the big meeting isn’t unusual and is generally thought to be a good idea. It provides everyone with a chance to relax a little and celebrate the end of all that hard prep work. It eliminates the time and energy spent when everyone needs to come up with and coordinate their own plans. It can also be a good way to subtly encourage everyone to make it an early night.

But even with all these good reasons to continue the practice, I still sometimes wonder if it actually is a good idea. Why? Two words: Food poisoning.

Do you really want all those people crucial to the team’s success eating the same dishes cooked in the same kitchen just hours before show time? That delicious lobster salad could very easily render you and your team incapable of performing on the big day.

I know this sort of thing is pretty rare, but I still think about it because I’ve seen a small sample of what it might be like.

It was the sound technician, poor guy. He was having some major issues. Something disagreed with him in a really awful way. But you had to give him credit, he was a pro and he knew that the show must go on. He managed to stay in the booth long enough to get things rolling through the introductions and to the first speaker. He then crawled off to the men’s room. He knew the timing of the meeting well enough to crawl back in time to handle each speaker-to-speaker transition. It was an amazing example of getting the job done no matter what it took.

One of the other techs told me that what that guy was going through was actually pretty tame. He had once witnessed, and participated in, something worse.

Much worse.

To be honest, his story had a seriously apocryphal vibe going and, to this day, I’m not sure whether or not I believe it. Imagine, if you will, an entire crew — stage hands, light and sound techs, roadies, riggers, the director, everybody — getting sick from eating at a local restaurant the night before they were due to load in and set up. Now consider the fact that there wasn’t anyone else available who could adequately do what needed to get done. They were all pros and they all knew the show had to go on. A number of buckets were placed as discreetly as possible around the ballroom for use while the stage was built and the equipment was set up. The smell was pretty bad he said. The sounds were worse.

I imagine it to have been something like the infamous Mr. Creosote scene from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life — only with more people, all of whom were much thinner and much busier. Nobody was offering anyone a wafer thin mint.

[I just picked up an interesting and relevant bit of trivia about that scene from Wikipedia: “At the end of the “Mr. Creosote” scene, after he has exploded and everyone is running amok, an extra on the right side of the screen can be seen vomiting. This was not in the script. The extra became so nauseated from the mess and the stench (which was reportedly very foul) that he actually threw up during the filming.”]

Fortunately, none of the speakers had joined the crew for that fateful dinner, and the crew had some time to recover before the actual meeting so things didn’t go as badly as they could have.

Sharing a meal together can be a good idea, if you pick where and what you eat very carefully. You also want to remember to pack the pepto and the imodium. Like they say, imodium keeps you off the commodium and at the podium.

Related resources:

Search results for “hotel” from the Food Poison Blog.

FDA’s Bad Bug Book — ” This handbook provides basic facts regarding foodborne pathogenic microorganisms and natural toxins.”

Your turn:

Has an unfortunate meal or restaurant choice ever affected your team’s ability to successfully present? Please feel free to respond in a comment to this post.

12 comments to Don’t Kick the Bucket

  • A guess it’s a possibility your whole crew will get food poisoning together, but who can really worry about this stuff? Think good and it will be good (and don’t eat at questionable establishments, just to be safe).

    Rob Schweitzers last blog post..Carbon Offsets for Green Events – A Sucker Born Every Minute

  • Rob Schweitzer: Thanks for stopping by. I agree it’s pretty unlikely but I can’t help at least considering it. All it would take would be a handful of my speakers being incapacitated and we would have some pretty serious challenges to deal with.

  • A guess it’s a possibility your whole crew will get food poisoning together, but who can really worry about this stuff? Think good and it will be good (and don’t eat at questionable establishments, just to be safe).

    Rob Schweitzers last blog post..Carbon Offsets for Green Events – A Sucker Born Every Minute

  • Lee Potts

    Rob Schweitzer: Thanks for stopping by. I agree it’s pretty unlikely but I can’t help at least considering it. All it would take would be a handful of my speakers being incapacitated and we would have some pretty serious challenges to deal with.

  • This is sad but hilarious, Lee. When I'm traveling before a presentation, I may not be concerned about food poisoning, but I do try to be careful the day before and day of not to eat anything too heavy or anything that will disagree with me. I know what kinds of foods might trigger a digestive “incident,” and I may eat them at home for fun, but not the day before a speaking engagement!

  • Gosh! That's one for the books! (Or blog.)

    Working with wildly creative yet unstable people sometimes yields similar results. Watching a presenter imbibe in improbable amounts of inebriates the night before the show, I found myself thinking,

    “This isn't going to be good.”

    Attempts to get her to stop seemed to make her angry — and determined to drink all the more.

    Sure enough, the next morning, the presenter was in the hospital. Alcohol poisoning.

    The show went on… without her.

    I imagine it impacted her career. Or her life. Haven't heard from her since — nor do I care to. Can't imagine who would hire her after such shenanigans.

    I've seen self-inflicted sickness like this go on before the show — and word spreads, quietly and quickly. Presenters who self-inflict sickness soon become non-presenters.

  • Hope she's okay and was able to find help. You can do everything in your power to eliminate the possibility of external factors causing a disaster but sometimes there's nothing you can do against the internal.

  • Can't go wrong with bread and water.

  • Hope she's okay and was able to find help. You can do everything in your power to eliminate the possibility of external factors causing a disaster but sometimes there's nothing you can do against the internal.

  • Can't go wrong with bread and water.

  • Hope she's okay and was able to find help. You can do everything in your power to eliminate the possibility of external factors causing a disaster but sometimes there's nothing you can do against the internal.

  • Can't go wrong with bread and water.

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