Why giving options is a bad idea
The temptation to ask for, or deliver, options is a trap worth avoiding. Whether it’s a graphics treatment, speech tone or overall approach, creating options wastes everyone’s time. Most often, there’s a best idea and everybody knows it. The other ideas limp along, nursed into marginal condition by junior team members for one of several reasons:
- Unclear criteria: Most options can be eliminated by asking a few questions before the team begins work. Identify the various possible directions and make inquiries to eliminate them. Do you prefer illustrations or photos? What emotion should the speech evoke? Talking takes a lot less time than doubling or tripling the creation effort.
- Flaunting capabilities: There is a time to showcase a team’s many and varied strengths, but executive speech writing is not that time. For executives, expertise is more valuable. The tenor of the conversation should be, “here’s the best approach and why” vs. “there are five ways we could address this audience, what do you think?”
- Abdication of responsibility: Owning an idea requires courage and a strong point-of-view. Many of us have the instinct to identify the best idea, but lack the bravery to forsake other options and fully develop one. We push the decision to the next guy to mitigate risk for ourselves.
To counteract these traps, think of executive speechwriting like a race, not a gallery. Leave it to our colleagues in the fine arts to put ideas on display. Set about the business of identifying the winning idea and axe options before they make their way into a workflow—or worse, in front of an executive.