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My dad tells a story about a friend of his who visited the United States. As you may know, the US visa entry form you fill in on the plane has some tick boxes where you declare yes/no to such things as ‘carrying guns’, ‘running drugs’ or ‘assassinating the president’, presumably so they can sue you if you do any of these things. I can’t imagine a real gun-runner, drug-dealer or assassin would tick ‘yes’, but my dad’s friend wrote ‘sole purpose of visit’ and of course was immediately deported. It seems customs people do not have a sense of humour  – you have been warned!

I had a call from a fellow professional speaker the other day, asking for advice on the content of her next speech. She had been given a topic by the organisers, knew I was going to be in the audience and – rightly – was checking with a sample of the attendees to find out what they needed to know so she could tailor her content to suit.

I told my caller it was all about objectives. I asked her what she was hoping to get out of the (free) presentation. Her objective was to show the audience what she could do, so they could recommend her in future. So I suggested – as my mentor once suggested to me – she repurpose an existing presentation for that specific audience, rather than attempt to reinvent the wheel. That way, she was showcasing her skills, knowledge and experience instead of wasting time crafting something new that she’d never need again.

I knew this because I was once asked to deliver a speech to the same audience. I spent a day preparing a brand new speech in accordance with the organisers’ wishes and only afterwards realised that it didn’t actually benefit me or the audience as much as it could have. Instead of doing what I thought the organisers had asked, I could have given so much more value for them and for me.

They don’t know what they missed.

What can you learn from this?

Always, always consider your sole objective (if you don’t have one, don’t do it).

  • My dad’s friend’s sole objective was to get into to US. Because of his silly joke (objective = make customs officer laugh), he failed.
  • My caller’s objective was do what the organisers asked for but also to showcase her expertise and so get referrals.
  • My speech objective had been to do what the organisers asked in order to qualify for membership (as it turned out, the rules had changed and I couldn’t qualify that way after all – so it was doubly frustrating that I wasted my time not even giving ‘my best stuff’).

Tip: Sometimes the person who’s asking you to do something doesn’t know what’s best for them.

Another tip: Once you’re on that stage, they can’t stop you doing what you want to anyway.

Final tip: ALWAYS deliver Your Best Stuff.

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