Use Your Own Stuff (with appologies to Patricia Fripp)


Mona LisaAt the international convention of the Malaysian Association of Professional Speakers, I was surprised to hear one of my fellows quote the famous “Mehrabian Experiment.” This long-ago-debunked theory proposes that only 7% of your message is communicated by the words you choose.

Not only is it not original. It’s hogwash.  The lesson here is get your facts straight.  Better still, do your own research.  Your credibility suffers when you borrow content or stories from other speakers. Even if you give them credit, you cheat the original author, you cheat the client, and you cheat yourself.

Clients pay you for two things: your expertise and your point-of-view. So take a stand. State the facts.  Check out opposing arguments, then offer your own, original analysis, in your own words.

Besides, people will always pay more for an original

The Musée du Louvre, in Paris, no doubt the most famous art museum in the world, is home to perhaps the most famous work of art in the world, Leonardo Da Vinci’s portrait of Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo, more commonly known as the Mona Lisa.

The next time you’re in Paris, brave the long queues and have a look. She hangs alone in a large hall in dim light.  And she’s small; only 77 by 53 centimeters.  Time has not been kind to Mrs. Giocondo.  The colors are yellowed by layers of crazed varnish,  And she’s cloistered behind thick plates of bullet-proof Lexan, the consequence of a vandal having thrown acid in her face in 1954.  For all the hype, it was really quite disappointing.

However, in the gift shop, you can buy a poster-sized reproduction.  Scientists have analyzed the pigments that Da Vinci used and digitally recreated this masterpiece, just as it would have looked standing wet on Da Vinci’s easel in 1504.  It is ascetically superior to the original in every respect.

And it’s only fifteen Euros, while the original, of course, remains priceless.

Most speakers start out doing other people’s material.  And even if you think it’s great material, you’d be surprised how long some of these ideas have been kicked around the circuit. As soon as the audience hears you repeat something they’ve heard before, you’re labeled as derivative.  Aristotle was teaching DiSC in 340 BC, (he referred to them as air, fire, earth, water).  So read ALL of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, and then NEVER tell any of those stories. People will pay more for an original.  Use your own stuff.


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