Call me Al: Marc Gunther fills in for Al
Last fall, former vice
president and soon-to-be Oscar winner Al Gore agreed to speak at
the FMI Show (Food Marketing Institute) in Chicago on May 6. Ten
days before the speech, his representatives from the Harry Walker
Agency, a New York City-based speakers bureau, called FMI to say
Gore was canceling “for personal reasons.”
Michael Sansolo, senior vice president
for Arlington, Va.-based FMI, said his first reaction to news was,
“Ha, ha, that’s funny.” His next thought: “We’re screwed.”
Sansolo and his staff sprang into
action. They created a list of solutions, from best-case to worst.
It read: 1) Find a celebrity replacement. 2) Find solid
replacements. 3) Find a former FMI speaker for an encore. 4) Move
an existing panel into that slot.
After frantic phone calls to Tom
Neilssen and Les Tuerk, CEO and president, respectively, of
BrightSight Group, a speakers bureau in Princeton, N.J., Sansolo
found a tag team to replace Gore: Marc Gunther, a writer for
Fortune magazine, and Chip Heath, a Stanford professor and
Sansolo, while still fuming about the
situation, says it’s important in such situations not to waste
precious time cursing the canceller. “We didn’t work on a problem
we couldn’t correct,” he says.
Planners in crisis might want to turn
to bureaus, like BrightSight, that represent speakers on an
exclusive basis, Tuerk advises, since such bureaus tend to have
better relationships with speakers and can get favors from
Heath says he was happy to help an
association in need but isn’t sure how well he filled in for Gore.
“I got compliments after the talk but, so far, no calls from