Are Your Product
by Burt Dubin
Books. Audio albums. Video demos. CD-ROM. Interactive education
instruments. Training-in-a-box. Learn anytime, anywhere. At
your own pace.
Much is written, most of it true, about the importance of
developing your product line. For BOR, back-of-the-room sales.
For your catalog. For passive income. Let's take a look at
another aspect of product development. Let's look at the fundament.
Let's probe the foundation of your product development. Let's
look at you. At your core. At your essence. At your state
of being. At your perspective. At your sense of your accountabilities.
You know that for a structure -- whether of steel and concrete
or of wood and stucco -- to withstand the elements, a sturdy
foundation is required. There must be a foundation that is
solid, stable, rooted in the earth as it reaches toward the
sky. Let's examine the structure of your speaking business
for a moment:
I've been studying my fellow speakers for close to 20 years.
With the eye of an anthropologist. With the approach of a
research specialist. With heart. With empathy. With love.
A few of us are brilliant marketers. Look at the dazzling
success of the luminous figures who come to your mind. On
the other end of the scale, some of us produce nothing more
than a demo tape.
You are your product. Let's look at the most important aspect
of your product. Let's examine the keys to your impact
on productivity and profits. (That's what decision-makers
want, right?) Let's look at how you affect hopes and dreams,
and possibilities. (They are what audience members want you
to illuminate, right?) Let's look at your authenticity:
- How real are you as you address your audiences?
- From what depth of know-how and caring do you speak?
- How much timeless wisdom is involved in your phrasings,
your stories and examples?
- How deeply do you look into industry conditions, competitive
considerations, and, if applicable, market-share concerns?
How many audience members and top executives do you interview
as you prepare your program? How far do you probe beneath
the surface of responses to your questions? To what degree
do you balance the concerns and interests of the sponsors
of your program, (They pay your fee), the decision-maker who
hire you, (S/he wants to look good because of this choice,)
and your audience members (whose concerns may be entirely
You are your product. A few years ago, Simon and Garfunkel
wrote a song. In it are these words: "Like a bridge over
troubled waters, I will ease your mind..." These troubled
waters are the world-wide social, economic and political chaos
in which we all find ourselves.
You, with what Naomi Rhode, past-president of NSA, calls,
"The privilege of the platform," have the opportunity
to ease the minds of each of your constituencies. You can
do this as you weave your verbal tapestry of education and
insights, of stories and metaphors, of participation and involvement.
We're in this together, all of us on this earth. We have
our lives to live, our children to raise, our significant
other to love, or to find, our careers or businesses to grow.
And we get to do all this in the center of a maelstrom surrounded
by dizzying changes, tumult, threats, upheavals, and clashes
of cultures and values. Terrible consequences and unprecedented
disaster await us one trigger finger away, right around the
corner. The potential bad guys are extremists with nothing
Even the crazy changes in world weather patterns contribute
to the uncertainties and insecurities that have become symbols
of our times. Surrounded by all this, we have our one chance
to make of ourselves what we will.
You are your product. Your ability to sort out this unrest,
this wild ferment, this ubiquitous agitation, is needed more
than ever now. How do you bring order to the multiple interests
of sponsors, decision-makers and audience members now? How
do you guide them to make sense of their worlds? How are you
to help them master their challenges today?
These people, all of them, find themselves on wild and stormy
seas stuck on a ship they no longer can control. They perceive
themselves to be far from any port. Compounding matters, they
are not at all certain of their compass readings. And, they
are even less sure of where their safe harbor may be.
They look to you for wisdom, guidance, hope, light -- and
a bit of fun. I offer you no answers, only questions. And
your attitudes, thoughts, words and actions, in response to
these questions, are important. They're important now, more
than ever. Because now, more than ever, you are your product.