My latest experience of this was this past Saturday night at a very distinguished gathering sponsored by the Canada Plus expat organization to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving. Lourdes and David Young, friends who run this popular group, had invited me to perform a short stand-up comedy set. This was actually the first English language stand-up comedy, so far as I can tell, ever presented in Panama.
I wrote all new material focused on the holiday, even getting a Donald Trump reference in, saying that when he heard Canada claims to have celebrated Thanksgiving 43 years before the Pilgrims did (which is true), “I’m going to have to build a second wall.”
But it wasn’t the comedy that gave me any concern, I know I can do that well and get laughs–though this was a new group from many diverse backgrounds and the ballroom was large and the tables spread out–not ideal circumstances.
No, what concerned me was an additional task David and Lourdes assigned me, to conduct an auction, the proceeds of which would help put on their big Christmas Carols by Candlelight outdoor event, which draws thousands and benefits two great charitable causes.
I had never done an auction before, and in this, I would be measured not by laughs but by hard cold cash people bid for the items, which included a beautiful artistic hand silk screened box filled with sockeye salmon, a case of French Champagne, and two round trip airline tickets from Panama to Canada. I was nervous about this for several days. After all, what if no one bid, or the amounts were low?
To counter this feeling, I pictured people loving my stand-up routine so much they were really happy to bid very large amounts for the offered items. I didn’t even let the complete malfunction of my new iPad Mini upset me–I had planned to video my performance.
As it turned out, and as I have often found to be true, by focusing on a positive outcome and taking the action to make it happen, we exceeded expectations. A couple of items even got bids higher than their retail price. And I got some lovely compliments about both my comedy and my auctioning skills.
It turned out to be a wonderful evening, including a sumptuous Thanksgiving buffet, with both turkey and filet mignon, a great dance band playing golden rock oldies, and a responsive and generous audience of about 100 Panamanians, Americans, Canadians, French, British and a few other nationalities. The new Canadian Ambassador to Panama was there, as were the British, French, and American ambassadors–which did add a bit to the pressure on my performance. Maybe I even had a better time than I would have if there hadn’t been some of those doubts ahead of the event. A valuable lesson.