I've been in Orlando the past few days, attending the annual conference of the National Speakers Association (NSA), an organization to which I've belonged since my days at IBM. On Sunday evening, at a dinner fund raiser for the NSA Foundation, my wife Laura and I sat next to Alan Weiss and his wife Maria. Alan was attending both as a member of NSA and as a presenter at the conference. In this case, he was speaking to the Consultants special interest group within NSA.
I've known about Alan for many years. I've been reading his books since long before joining IBM. I've seen him speak at numerous industry functions. Last year we even presented at the same conference. However, this was the first time I had actually met him, let alone had the opportunity to have a quiet conversation over dinner with him.
Alan is -- and he'll be the first to tell you -- in a class by himself. He's a distinctly different breed of cat. Anyone who has seen him present can tell you that. He's an extraordinarily successful and well known author, consultant and speaker. He's also widely known for being very outspoken and for his ability to glibly promote himself, his viewpoint and his work. He's brash, opinionated and not ashamed to discuss his many successes. Some people think the guy has an "attitude." He does, and he wears it proudly.
Alan's opinions aren't just about Alan however. As a consultant, he takes his work and profession very seriously. He's openly disdainful of the "crap" produced by some of the large, bureaucratic and very well known consulting firms. More importantly, he's passionate about the positive role that great consultants can play in helping their clients' organizations -- and the people within them -- achieve new levels of performance and significance.
Over dinner, I didn't get Alan's attitude or bombast. I didn't get endless recitations of the books he had written or how well they were doing. Those things, it turns out, come from the Alan that's on the platform. That's the very public persona. That's what you see when you see him present.
On Sunday over dinner, I got to meet Alan the serious consulting professional. I also got to meet the individual, the husband and the dad. I met his wife -- and childhood sweetheart -- Maria. We swapped stories and talked about our kids. My wife and I had a lovely evening.
Two nights later at the conference's concluding banquet, Alan was one of five people the National Speakers Association announced were being inducted into their Speakers Hall of Fame. The award is the Council of Peers Award of Excellence (CPAE). He was recognized for his extensive contributions to the speaking profession, especially for helping new and aspiring speakers and consultants. In accepting the award, Alan was typically brash but you could see that he was touched by the very public recognition of his contribution. Then he got a standing ovation from over 1,500 professional speakers -- the toughest audience in the world.
It's nice to know that nice guys -- even those who frequently adopt a brash and even aloof public persona -- don't always finish last.