Tough start but a good ending

We had missed our detour, increased our drive by about an hour, almost ran out of gas, and hit not one but two possums. I was starting to think maybe I wasn?t meant to give a good keynote speech the next morning at the Mid-America Newspaper Conference in Lake Ozark, Mo.

A few weeks ago I was asked to speak primarily to a crowd of contributors for large daily newspapers. The president of the group and host for the conference said he thought they would be interested in my experience as a young publisher and our adventures owning newspapers and a publishing company in Kansas.

I accepted the invitation and worked on my speech the last few weeks, all in preparation for my first keynote speech.

The drive there was less than encouraging?more like borderline disaster?as described above, but I also was subjected to a mayo-soaked chicken sandwich that was supposed to be a chicken club sans mayo I was going to eat on the road. I have an absolute disdain for mayo, so having a pound of it on a sandwich and nowhere else to stop and grab dinner on the go was less than fun.

I was planning to arrive at my hotel at the Lake of the Ozarks at about 10 p.m. so I could get a good night of sleep, wake up in plenty of time, grab breakfast and even go through my speech once or twice before I was supposed to deliver it at 10 a.m.

Instead, Lindsey and I rolled in about 12:30 a.m., and I was keyed up, so getting a good night?s sleep was officially not going to happen.

When I woke up, I started to get ready to go to the conference when I grabbed a pair of socks and realized I forgot to pack my shoes.

The only thing I had were the flip-flops I wore in the car the night before, and there was no time to find a store to buy new shoes.

Leaving my night and my shoeless feet behind me, I decided to change up the beginning of my talk and make a joke about the situation.

I was introduced to a sea of blank faces. I started to wonder if they really wanted to hear from a 30-year-old publisher when they were all running production for places like the Kansas City Star and Lawrence Journal World.

My outlook improved when they laughed at my opening joke about my feet, and I started to get rolling. I talked about our excellent staff at each of our locations and the fun things we have done throughout our journalism journey.

The discussion appeared to resonate with the group, and I had several good conversations about our little publishing company throughout the weekend. I got some cool ideas and tips, too.

So, while I was worried last week that I might bomb the speech, and my trip started so terribly, I managed to do an OK job after all. It was all about letting it all roll off my shoulders and moving forward.

I have never given a speech to a crowd like that before?especially not for an hour?and I am glad I now have it under my belt.

Maybe next time, if there is a next time, endeavor will start more smoothly and I might remember to pack shoes.

It?s the little things.

Joey Young is a majority owner and publisher of the Free Press and Kansas Publishing Ventures.