My biggest gaffe: To assume is to make an ass out of 'u' and 'me'

Adrian Wheeler, partner, Agincourt Communications, PR and media trainer, and non-executive director at five consultancies, recalls a mortifying lesson in the importance of nailing the basics.

Scene of the crime: The Great Eastern Hotel (now Andaz Liverpool Street)
Scene of the crime: The Great Eastern Hotel (now Andaz Liverpool Street)

Here’s one I still lose sleep over.

My boss went on holiday and left the organisation of the annual results media briefing for our biggest client – a quoted insurance company – to me. I was proud.

My boss and I turned up early at the Great Eastern Hotel. The client’s board arrived early, too – all chauffeurs, Savile Row and Old Etonian ties.

At 11am it was just us. The same at 11.15. Same at 11.30. My boss took me aside.

"Who exactly did you get confirmations from?"

"But... Brian... I thought you invited them. I just organised the venue."

His face showed the emotions of a man unjustly sentenced to the gallows. Together, we went back to speak to our client.

Postscript: we didn’t lose the client – and I didn’t get fired. For some reason.

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