The lights flickered and went out.
There I was, about to give my Green Beans & Ice Cream presentation at the American Society of Safety Engineers Seminar Fest, and it was completely dark.
My presentation was at the LVH, the Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, where Elvis Presley once played 837-sold out shows. At this moment in time, I had 500 seats to fill and one flashlight.
The ASSE is always a huge conference, and this was no exception, with days full of safety management seminars, workshops and professional development opportunities. It’s the world’s oldest professional safety society. Companies at this conference included BNSF Railway, Oklahoma Gas & Electric, Echolab Inc., and the Department of Energy, to name a few.
I was staying at the Bellagio hotel, my personal favorite. No, not because of the fountains or the fine art in the lobby. They make a superb cheese Danish. Really, ask my daughters. When I spoke with them on the phone from Vegas, they said not to bring home any T-shirt souvenirs, just cheese Danish.
Pastries aside, I spent three days in Vegas at the ASSE conference. Days full of meetings, appointments and presentations. I delivered a dinner speech titled “Are you rehearsing for a fatality?” I met the head of the Russian Safety Association and was invited to present in Moscow. I also met Hanz Dernt, who works for the company that provides insurance for every worker hurt on the job in Germany.
He came up to me and asked, “Bill, if you should always be giving positive reinforcement, does that mean you never tell someone when they do something wrong?”
I replied, “Of course, you should always coach people to help them improve, but the problem is that too many companies ONLY use negative reinforcement, and they forget the positive.” As I say in my book Green Beans & Ice Cream, reinforcement needs to be positive, specific and immediate.
At my Green Beans presentation that last day, I decided to go ahead and start presenting in the dark. About ten minutes in, the lights thankfully came back on. And what did I see? Somehow, in the darkness, every seat had been filled!