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Dave Carroll of “United Breaks Guitars” Receives a Heartfelt Standing Ovation and Great Reviews throughout the CSAE 2014 Conference

Kelly MacDonald, partner and senior vice president of Speakers’ Spotlight, recently had the opportunity to attend the Canadian Society of Association Executive’s 2014 Conference in Niagara Falls, Ontario. At the conference, Speakers’ Spotlight was pleased to sponsor Dave Carroll, who shot to internet fame in 2008 when he posted his song “United Breaks Guitars” to YouTube. Kelly reviews Dave’s presentation at the conference in her note below:

In 2008, musician Dave Carroll’s United Airlines flight had just landed when a fellow passenger looked out the aircraft’s window at the baggage handlers and exclaimed, “My god they’re throwing guitars out there!” When nine months of calls and emails to United failed to net Dave compensation for $1,200 of damage to his guitar, he took matters into his own hands and posted his song United Breaks Guitars to YouTube. Within days, the video had millions of views (it has since been seen by 150 million people worldwide), and caused a storm of bad PR for United, causing their stock to plunge and costing shareholders $180 million. His story is the ultimate example of how in the age of social media, a single customer experience can have a huge impact.

While this introduction seems to tell the whole story, association executives and business members at the CSAE 2014 conference soon learned differently.

Dave won applause right off the top as he walked on stage with his guitar to play the last verse of his YouTube hit United Breaks Guitars. With us all now in the palm of his hand, he continued to win us over with his consummate skill as a storyteller, recounting his journey from singer song-writer to consumer advocate, author, social media innovator, and keynote speaker.

He shared thoughtful, intelligent insights from his experience on how organizations have to restructure marketing plans and operating cultures to fit with today’s new type of consumer engagement. If you don’t have a product that’s good, or service that can stand up to the scrutiny of shared customer experience, you have to change that and start “living up to the hype”. We are no longer in control of the narrative—customer experience and brand engagement are. Rather than being afraid of this fact, we can instead harness the power of social media to tell our stories and engage our fans.

Throughout his performance, Dave engaged his audience in a way that truly practiced what he preaches. He was disarmingly warm and funny, making each point with a story featuring a cast of friends and family members that were all met with nodding heads, laughter, and even tears when he explored some broader points on the natural power of caring and perspective. He ended his presentation with a personal song, which—no surprise—won applause for the second time and brought everyone to their feet!