March/April 2023

Sherman’s Steps to the Front-Row


By Marilyn Sherman, CSP, CPAE My longevity in speaking in the hospitality industry came almost by accident – literally! In 2005, I had already been speaking professionally for 13 years and a consultant at the time suggested I go through an association directory and start making calls to solicit speaking engagements. One of those associations was the Women’s Foodservice Forum. I was directed to fill out a call for proposal on their website and they hired me for two breakout sessions at their annual leadership conference. This would be one of my first introductions to the hospitality/foodservice industry. A week before the conference, a fellow speaker posted a message that her son had an accident and she needed to be with him, and unfortunately had

to cancel her appearance at WFF. After checking in with her, I decided to reach out to the meeting planner and offer to cover for her, since I was already going to be there. The meeting planner was elated that I reached out and asked me; “What else do you have to speak on besides Whose Comfort Zone Are You In?” which was the topic I was known for at that time. I gave her an outline of my new concept around living and leading from the front-row, based on my newest book “Why Settle for the balcony? How to get a Front-Row Seat in Life.” Shortly after receiving my outline, she hired me to take over one of the spots of my colleague. The result was literally life changing. I immediately fell in love. Finally, I found an industry that got my sense of humor and at the same time was thirsty for motivation and inspiration in their hospitality and foodservice roles. My friends speaking slot was the day before mine. So, too stepped in and did my program much to the surprise of some of the people expecting another speaker. They loved it! In fact, I was told later that my session was the buzz of the conference that night. As a result, when it came to my scheduled appearance the next day, it was standing room only! The room had been set for 400 people, and because of the word of mouth the night before, there were about 600 people who showed up! It was at this event that I connected with amazing, dedicated, and motivated leaders in this wonderful industry. I collected business cards and immediately followed up with personalized notes and surprised some folks by sending them copies of my books. And, as a result, I was invited to speak at SFM, HFM (remember when they were separate?) NACUFS, and a host of food distributors, manufacturers, and restaurants. Not only did these speaking opportunities help me build my business exponentially, but I met extraordinary people who to this day, I’ve stayed in touch with. In fact, when my husband (my beloved Frenchie) was diagnosed with cancer two years ago, he was inundated with cards and gifts. This outreach of love and support came mostly from hospitality and foodservice pros. No less than 5 past chairs of WFF send personalized cards to him. I will be forever grateful for the opportunities that have come and will continue

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