INSIGHT: How Trust Can Save the Toughest Test

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Hey, want to test your maximum pucker factor? Here's how I did it once – I walked up in front of 250 people with 5 CEO's sitting on your panel having absolutely no idea what I was going to ask or even say. Who hasn't done this, right?

You know the old adage about speeches – it takes a day to write a one hour speech, a week to write a 15-minute one. How do you prepare to moderate a panel of true movers and shakers in front of hundreds of their customers and prospects? One radical answer is just don't plan at all.

The panel was at MAGIC on August 25, 2008. The topic was HOW US RETAILERS AND BRANDS CAN PREPARE TO WORK DIRECTLY WITH FACTORIES IN THE AMERICAS. I had a blockbuster panel of:
Alfonso Hernandez, Argus Group, El Salvador and Nicaragua
Brian Meck, FesslerUSA, USA
Carlos Arias, KORAMSA, Guatemala
Fernando Capellan, Grupo M, Dominican Republic and Haiti
Walter Wilhelm, Walter Wilhelm Associates, USA

We all showed up early. Each asked me what questions I was going to ask. They said they had not gotten an email of my questions. I told them I didn't have any. They asked why. I said because you don't have to memorize the truth and I'm going to simply go with the trust we all have in one another. They were not happy.

The time to start came. There were 250 people crammed into the seminar room. It was Standing Room Only. We were on the raised stage. The CEO's each had a chair. I had the podium. It was time to start.

I explained right up front that I had no prepared questions for the panel, no slides for the audience  no notes for myself, not even a prepared opening. I explained that these were highly successful and strong executives and that all 6 of us trusted one another and for that reason we were going to try something new.

I then said something like, "….in 2 minutes (pointing to Carlos Arias), I'm going to ask Carlos a question. Then, I'm going to sit down and take notes because what you're going to see today is an AAPN meeting break out. Whatever Carlos says will spark thinking in the others and they will begin handing off to one another. Watch, you'll see".

I asked Carlos what kinds of brands were bringing production to him. You can see his answer in of my notes from that day. I swear, I said nothing else until the very end. Why? Because an AAPN meeting broke out.

It's 2020. This meeting happened 12 years ago! Three of the five executives from that day are still going strong in the industry. If we were talking about all the investment and innovations in the region in 2008, imagine what we can say today! What we can say today is what we shared then – the truth.

We all know you can never have speed until you have trust. But another byproduct of trust is the truth, which is content. I believed in that when I walked up on the stage with absolutely no idea what would happen. Try it sometime. (Take a change of clothes though, you never know) Notes from that day are attached here.