Didja hear the one about the guy who was invited to the microphone to give a brief thank you and a few words of inspiration at an annual sales meeting but instead prepared a full script of remarks that included a narration of the original mission of the organization and a full reporting of its growth and successes over the past 25 years … ? Just like the company’s founder did … ?

Or maybe you heard the one about the woman who was invited to be a speaker at a widely attended opening of an important community exhibit but she never asked how many other speakers there would be and so she spoke three times longer than each of the other six people … ?

I betcha heard the one about the techie guru guy who was asked to deliver a presentation to a group of funders looking at their first tech venture and the only “ask” he seemed to make at the end was ‘so do you understand now how this works?’ … ?

Okay, I know you’ve heard about the nonprofit exec who addressed the group of longtime volunteers assembled in the room and then told them why they should consider signing up to volunteer and the good it will do … ?

Whether it’s time allotment, your place on the agenda, how many others are speaking, your role versus others’, the composition of your audience, or the angle of your message, get some perspective. An invitation to the microphone does not, on its own, convey the full responsibility of the event or occasion on your shoulders, nor does it give you carte blanche to guess or wing it or go where you feel like going. An invitation to the microphone is only as good as its relevance to the occasion and the audience.

When you get invited to speak … Ask how much time you have. Ask what your role is. Ask how many other speakers there will be. Ask how big or how knowledgeable the audience will be. Ask why the audience will be there. Ask if your ideas for your remarks are on target or not. Ask. And then everyone wins.

Beth Levine