This past week I gave a speech on strategy to a bunch of professional speakers in Arizona. One of the first things I asked the audience to do was write a list of the topics they speak on. When they were finished, I asked how many of the speakers had commas in their answer. For example, it's not uncommon to have a speaker say "motivation, team building, change management and leadership". I think every comma in their answers represents a focus problem that's pretty acute for a lot of speakers. And when I talked to audience members after that, I was taken with how many of their business issues were wrapped up in this focus issue.
Focus is a serious, serious problem for a professional speaker for two reasons. First, when you speak you are absolutely selling your experience, expertise and polish. These increase dramatically with repetition, and a speaker who gives the same speech twenty times is far better than one who gives twenty speeches once. Secondly, it is so very very easy to lose focus as a speaker. In manufacturing, you have to develop new products or markets, hire new people, and sometimes acquire new facilities or equipment to lose focus. For a speaker to wander off focus, all he or she has to do is read a couple of books and agree to speak on a topic that is outside of his or her focus.
Do you have commas in your list? Why are they there? And can you imagine how much better you would be if they weren't?