Take This Year’s Annual Meeting Speech From Awful to Awesome.

Or, Quit Being so Adaptable!

MicswithaudienceSmallI have a very important piece of coaching for any executive who ever speaks at the yearly company event. Stop being so adaptable. That’s right, STOP IT! Adaptability is one of the things that makes we humans one of the most abundant species on the planet. It has also helped us survive for a long, long time. And, being adaptable is absolutely, completely, totally what makes the whole company think you’re such a bad public speaker.

Let’s set the context so you remember it, because we are built to forget painful memories quickly. There you are, it’s a VERY ‘high-leverage communication event’ ® and this speech is what people are going to think of you and your overall abilities, from now on. And, here is the problem. You have been working with the speech that the marketing team handed you for weeks (or maybe not, I know you’re busy) and you’ve got it pretty well internalized. Your turn comes, you go out on stage and you basically choke. It’s not totally awful since you’re pretty skilled, but it’s clearly sub par and you know it. But, the audience doesn’t. All they think is: “Wow, I wonder how he got that job? I thought you had to be a good speaker to be VP of Global Sales.”

Then, to make it worse, the extremely charismatic CEO comes on after you, thanks you for the great remarks, which sounds pretty hollow to the audience and downright sarcastic to you, and then proceeds to give a fantastic, connected, inspirational and memorable speech which makes your effort look downright bush league. Ouch.

Well, my friend, you need to stop being so adaptable. The problem most likely isn’t you or even your speaking ability. The problem is that you adapted to the cr#p your marketing and PR team wrote for you, without even asking for your input. You weren’t using your own words, you weren’t saying things you cared about and lived over the past year, you were adapting yourself to something that was barely, if at all, related to what YOU would have said. And, that’s unfortunate because you just looked like a real dud in front of all of your peers, employees, co-workers, partners and superiors.

The real tragedy is that you didn’t have to do it like that. But, you were busy. So, you threw yourself on the grenade and now everyone feels mildly sorry for you for the rest of the event. Listen. Don’t ever do that again. Respect yourself. Respect your audience. Respect your team members, and don’t be so adaptable next time. Either write the speech yourself – it’s OK to get help, you just need to OWN it. Or, take what they give you and make time to mold it to your own style.

The bottom line is that you represent the company, and you represent yourself, when you step into that high-leverage communication event. It may not be fair, but how you perform in that moment is how the majority of your peers will think you are, period. Make sure they get the real you, the thriving you; not the pretzel twisted, highly adaptable, barely surviving you. Either the speech writing intern in marketing controls your destiny, or you do! Get a jump on it, start early and make is great. It’s not the TED conference, but it’s arguably far more important to your future success! Own it! You and your audience will be happy you did!

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