Back when I was still building Speak Up for Success, two of my business heroes — Amy Abrams and Adelaide Lancaster, co-founders of a women’s incubator called In Good Company Workplaces — asked me for help with a common public speaking problem.
They’d been speaking a lot about their book The Big Enough Company, and wanted advice on what to do when you show up to give a particular speech and find out that it’s angled wrong for your audience.
Sometimes You Know Too Much
Ad and Amy’s core audience is women entrepreneurs. But when you know that group as well as they do, you know that there are lots of sub-sets within it — groups whose interests and needs may differ.
Think about the differences in perspective among:
- Aspiring vs. new vs. established women entrepreneurs
- Older vs. younger vs. mid-career women entrepreneurs
- Solopreneurs vs. women with employees
- Consultants vs. or women in manufacturing, etc., etc.
Now, of course all these groups are women entrepreneurs — and a less informed speaker would have treated them all the same.
But since Ad and Amy knew how much these groups differed, they were tempted to offer every group they spoke to a different speech about their book.
This is a noble intent, but it’ll kill you. Even women who gracefully juggle being partners, mothers, friends, daughters, bosses, innovators, and plenty more occasionally need to get some sleep!
Enter the “Stump Speech”
Let’s say that you’re doing a book “tour” (as Ad and Amy were).
Or maybe your company has sent you out to tell many different groups about a new policy.
In these cases, as in similar ones, if you focus on how each of your audiences is different, you will quickly find yourself overwhelmed.
But if you focus on what’s the same, you’ll be able to adapt with ease — because what’s the same, is the thing that you know best: The key message you’re delivering.
In Ad and Amy’s case, they quickly realized that their key message (not surprisingly, the same one as their book’s) is:
Entrepreneurship is an opportunity to create your life on your own terms.
Good one! It’s quick, clean, and comprehensive — and look how easily it can be adapted to whatever audience they address:
- Aspiring entrepreneurs: As you’ll discover when you start your own business, entrepreneurship is an opportunity to create your life on your own terms.
- Newbie entrepreneurs: You’ve probably already discovered that entrepreneurship is an opportunity to create your life on your own terms.
- Experienced enterpreneurs: As you know from your years in business, entrepreneurship is an opportunity to create your life on your own terms.
When you know your topic well, changes like these take almost no thought.
You’re Almost Done
The final step in customizing a speech that’s built around a key message is to pick the three specific topics you’ll address.
Again, when you’re familiar with an area, examples will come easily to mind — and you should have a handful of them worked out and ready to go for when you need them. These stories, examples, or strategies will help you customize for particular groups, such as:
- Older women: Here are three stories about how others have changed their business models as what they wanted from life evolved.
- Solopreneurs (who work alone): Here are three strategies for bringing others into your work life.
- Women in non-traditional fields like manufacturing: Here are three challenges that other women like you have overcome. (You probably guessed The Rule of 3 was going into factor in this, right?)
There’s a lot more to say on this subject, but I think you get the point:
You don’t need a new speech for every occasion.
You only need one speech — or rather, one message — that gets to the heart of what you want to say. Add some stories that reinforce your point, and you’re ready to go almost anywhere and speak!