The life of the entertainer

I calculated (I’ll tell you why in a moment) that by the end of this year I will have presented to almost 7000 people in just under 100 workshops and presentations around the UK and Ireland.

The fact is that my presentation style and content are not universally loved – but then neither is anybody’s – I’m sure that all speakers and performers, from busy amateurs like myself, to full professionals – get their fair share of events that nose-dive.

I remember in 1985, attending a posh dinner at The Intercontinental – Hambro Life top producers – over 250 blokes in full black tie – wined and dined to excess, starting on the cigars and brandy – and…..

Out steps the cabaret for the night – Victoria Wood.

Never could a performance have been chosen more inappropriately.

To her credit, she knew in the first few minutes that it was “wrong time, wrong place” – and soldiered through to the end of her set, drowned by the noise of guests who were totally disinterested in her songs, stories and jokes.

At the end of the 60 minutes, she calmly closed the lid of her piano and walked graciously off stage.

The responsibility, of course, rests with the conference organisers who simply booked the wrong act.

Ms Wood goes on to an outstanding career.

Its with this story in mind that I comment on my recent workshops with Paddi Lund in Dublin and York and my marketing tour with Practice Plan – the feedback from which has been quite overwhelming.

I’ve been inundated with requests to read my ezine and blog – and also with invitations to visit practices and discuss business coaching.

Possibly the best feedback I’ve had since the Talking Points tour a few years ago.

All in the context that the team at Practice Plan always introduce me as “Marmite” – (you will love or hate him).

And then I arrive home from 10 days of travel to find a letter from the Northern Deanery which attaches two pieces of paper:

  • Firstly, feedback from the delegates – 10% loved it, 60% liked it, 15% disliked it and 15% hated it.

Fair enough – I did question the sensibility of putting me in front of 70 first-year Foundation Dentists who had been out on the booze the night before.

Wrong time, wrong people, wrong message?

I did ask – but they said “come along anyway – we need to wake them up and shake them about” – that was the brief.

However, it was the second piece of paper that really amazed me.

Anonymous word-processed comments from tutors which I can only describe as vitriolic and personal.

Not so much feedback as a chance to voice deeply personal insults without any accountability.

I did what I was trained to do many years ago – straight in the shredder where it belongs – so don’t ask me to recount the attack in detail.

Normally I’d put it down to experience and suggest that a few ignorant tutors is a small percentage of a 7000 audience.

But then in York on Friday, a dentist who attended the Deanery gig explained to me that, in the bar of the hotel the night before I arrived, some of the tutors were announcing to all within earshot the arrival of “that jerk Chris Barrow who is going to tell us all how great he is again”.

It appears that a fair job of sabotage was done the night before.

Perhaps the only consolation is that I was invited to lunch after my presentation, ignorant of the slander that was to come – and listened to the same individuals back-stabbing others of their peer group in earshot of myself and other guests in the hotel.

I’m not going to keep my feelings to myself – I’m “over” the poor feedback – but I abhor hypocrisy in all its forms.

I hear that the Dean has ordered me banned from future work – he doesn’t need to bother – I won’t be back.

I look forward to continuing my relationship with other Deaneries around the country, with whom I have maintained an excellent relationship for a decade.

I’ll just get on with my career and offer a public “thank you” to the dentists in York on Friday (you know who you are) and Ian Gordon, who are the only individuals who emerge from this debacle with their integrity intact.


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Chris Barrow

Chris Barrow has been active as a consultant, trainer and coach to the UK dental profession for over 20 years. As a writer, his blog enjoys a strong following and he is a regular contributor to the dental press. Naturally direct, assertive and determined, he has the ability to reach conclusions quickly, as well as the sharp reflexes and lightness of touch to innovate, change tack and push boundaries. In 2014 he appeared as a “castaway” in the first season of the popular reality TV show “The Island with Bear Grylls”. His main professional focus is as Coach Barrow, providing coaching and mentorship to independent dentistry.