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Chapter Two. Before You Speak > Control the topic

Control the topic

Another important consideration in deciding whether to accept an invitation is the subject you are asked to discuss. You should not agree to speak on a subject you are uncomfortable with or that you feel you don't know enough about. I have been a professional writer most of my life, but I have had very little experience in writing advertising copy. I would welcome the chance to speak to a group of marketing executives on, say, why advertising and public relations should use coordinated messages, but I would not speak to the same group on the essentials of good advertising copy. It's simply not my field. I have some opinions on the subject, but I have no credentials that make my opinions worthy of consideration.

Before you accept an invitation, be certain that the person issuing it has a realistic understanding of your credentials. Otherwise, you might be oversold to the audience and thus be unable to meet their expectations. Not long ago, I was asked to speak to a "literary" exchange club. Now, I don't think of myself as a "literary" person. My writing has been mostly of the commercial variety—that is, speeches, financial reports, brochures, etc. Although I enjoy good literature, I read for pleasure and rarely think about symbolism and deeper meanings. I told the program chairman this and she assured me that the club members would appreciate some practical tips on writing. Only after receiving that assurance did I accept the invitation. Because the group's expectations were realistic, the meeting was a success.


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