CEO requests hairnet, and speechwriter flinches

I’ve had some scary moments watching speakers stumble through great setups or blow a punchline. (I always keep a full glass of wine under my chair and on occasion have downed it in a single gulp.)

However, the weirdest incident has to be: The Hairnet Request.

The CEO and I were walking to company cafeteria where he was going to deliver remarks at a celebration for ERIE being named a 2012 Customer Service Champion by J.D. Power & Associates. This was the second year in a row for us in a study that crosses all industries so it’s a big deal. We decided we were going to celebrate throughout the year by holding up examples of our fellow customer service champs (Amazon, Eddie Bauer, Southwest, etc.) and we were kicking it off by inviting employees to come and be “blown away” by great service.

In the cafeteria was a huge blow-up chamber with air circulating hundreds of prize slips. We were going to draw names of employees to go into the chamber and grab prize slips. We thought it would be fun to put our CEO in there first to play for one of our field employees. Our CEO is 6’7,” bald and has a great sense of humor. (He once told an audience that he doesn’t need PowerPoint because he is a visual effect.)

It was a busy day and so I was briefing him as we walked from his office to the café. As we entered the doors, he said, “See if you can get me a hairnet. They must have some back in the kitchen.” Like any good speechwriter, I flinched at the thought, and ran to the kitchen, creepy black hairnet secured.

After his remarks, the coordinator asked him to step in to the chamber. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the hairnet which he placed Ruth Buzzy-style over his forehead and dome, and told the laughing crowd: “I want to make sure nothing gets out of place.”

I heard one Employee say that day, “Who has a CEO that would be willing to do this?”

We do.

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