Michael J. Lyons is an actor, speaker, writer, entrepreneur and hospitality industry executive. As an actor, he has dozens of credits in films, TV shows, commercials and more than 350 live appearances on home shopping network QVC as a product host. He also can be seen in the popular Netflix series “House of Cards” playing the Speaker of the House in Season 4, Episode 2. As a professional motivational speaker, he has given talks to numerous groups over the past few years on how to achieve goals, pursue your passion and enhance your personal brand. He has authored a number of articles in both travel industry trade journals as well as consumer magazines, and is frequently sought out by the media as one of the experts in the meetings and events industry. www.michaeljlyons.com
The Financial & Insurance Conference Planners (FICP) 2015 Annual Conference was held last fall at the beautiful Atlantis, Paradise Island, Bahamas. Among the many thought-provoking and outstanding educational presentations was a unique interactive FICP Mock Trial that featured two different hypothetical court cases.
“The audience was left to ponder their own behavior if faced with similar circumstances in their own workplaces.”
In this innovative session, audience members played the role of the jury for both trials, each lasting about 45 minutes long. The judge, attorneys and witnesses were played convincingly (if not tongue-in-cheek) by FICP conference attendees, who embraced their opportunity to showcase their thespian skills — with verve!
I was pleased to be a part of the team that put the session together, and also played the role of the defense lawyer in both trials. Real-life attorney Jonathan T. Howe Esq. played the judge to perfection and was one of the guiding forces behind the session — generously sharing his experience and knowledge of the courtroom setup, legal lingo, procedures and documents, which made the trials as realistic as possible.
Padraic Gilligan of Ovation Global DMC was the other driving force of the event, bringing his talents as an effective and earnest lawyer for the plaintiffs to the proceedings, along with thoughtful input in the design and content of the cases themselves. The whole undertaking was an example of collegial collaboration, relevant subject matter and pure, unadulterated fun, all the while driving home some real-world messages.
In the first trial, “Everything but the Kitchen Sink,” a group of hotels, DMCs, CVBs and transportation companies initiated a class-action lawsuit against insurance company corporate meeting planner Snidely Scrupulless (played by Grant Snider). Led by DMC owner Debbie Doright (Kathy Roche), the suit claimed that the actions of Scrupulless were unethical and wasted everyone’s time — thereby costing the organizations money.
Mr. Scrupulless was accused of creating inefficiencies and unnecessary work by having a number of supplier companies respond to an extremely detailed RFP in multiple cities — with the chance of being selected extremely small. On the other hand, not responding to the RFP could potentially be detrimental to a potential long-term relationship with Snidely. In defense of his actions, he claimed innocence because he followed his company’s internal processes and cited additional factors as reasons why the RFP process was flawed.
Steve Bova, the executive director of FICP, was sworn in as an expert witness and was asked about FICP’s code of ethics and stance on the case. Steve masterfully reaffirmed FICP’s aspirational position on acceptable ethical practices without entering the fray or taking sides. After crafty maneuvering by plaintiff’s attorney Dewey Cheatem (Padraic Gilligan) and defense attorney I.M. Scheister (Mike Lyons), the jury found that Mr. Scrupulless did not violate any laws, and he won the case, mainly because he never signed a non-disclosure agreement.
Throughout the rowdy proceedings, the Honorable Judge (Jonathan T. Howe Esq.) had to maintain order and threatened both attorneys (and witnesses alike) with contempt of court charges on multiple occasions, much to the delight of the audience.
In the second trial, financial services company meeting organizer Peter Planner (played by Chris Gilbert) brought Heavenly Resorts Hotel Company and DOS Sally Sellem (Koleen Roach) to court citing lack of performance during their annual meeting, resulting in poor attendee experience (and, in the process, damaging Peter Planner’s reputation in the company). In the suit, the plaintiff asked for heavy discounts on the hotel’s final bill as well as $250,000 in damages.
The hotel director of sales (Koleen Roach) cited the BEOs as not being as precise as they should have been, bad communication on the part of the client, and unreasonable room rate negotiations leading to vulnerable service levels, as part of the hotel’s defense.
During the trial Mr. Planner cited numerous ways that the hotel short-changed the attendees, creating a terrible experience for many of them and resulting in poor morale rather than the positive, uplifting, inspired feeling the company was trying to create.
However in cross-examination testimony, Mr. Planner’s case fell apart as he was exposed for his lack of communication, follow-through and mismanagement of the meeting details, thereby causing the hotel to experience service issues. Also unveiled was his personal relationship with a key witness, which influenced her testimony and further damaged Mr. Planner’s credibility. In the end, the jury found in favor of the hotel, and no damages were awarded to the plaintiff.
All in all, a fun time was had by all, and the audience was left to ponder their own behavior if faced with similar circumstances in their own workplaces. A special call-out to all the other actors not yet-mentioned, who did a terrific job acting out their parts: Witnesses Alison Hall, Linda Burley, Cindy Hoddeson and Bailiff Kevin Regan. I&FMM