Recently the amazing leaders of Pfizer Rare Disease invited me to share with 600 cross-functional professionals who are committed to bringing breakthroughs that change people’s lives. This is one of the most respected divisions within the 200-year-old company, whose core values of courage, demonstrating excellence, standing for equity, and experiencing joy run deep.

After having an initial Zoom call with less than three weeks to go, the Pfizer folks asked me to put together an executive summary that encapsulated my best thinking. Well, we did it. However, they wanted to hold another conference call to really ensure that I got them.

I thought I did. But honestly, it was very surface. I realized it was time to call an audible. I decided at the last minute to fly in early and attend four of the pre-approved sessions prior to my closing session, which was 36 hours away.

Due to my NDA, I am not allowed to share what was said in those meetings. However, there are three lessons that forever changed how I will work with them or anyone in the future.

Personalization is the new competitive edge. Pfizer didn’t want to hear any overused presentation that I had given to a previous company. They wanted an original masterpiece of an experience. This required an additional 10 hours of investment in addition to the 10 hours that had been invested for this 25-minute presentation.

Observation is a superpower. I ended up attending two meal functions prior to giving my closing presentation. This was the best decision ever. I was able to build rapport with a few attendees and then reference them from the stage on the fly with specific details.

Be open to going off-script. After the many hours invested in this experience, I had my prepared notes down to the core of my soul. I knew exactly what I was going to do. However, I sensed that I was the last speaker of the day. In one moment, I decided to get in the flow of the moment and didn’t share my last five slides. Yes, I called an audible and went for it.

After 20 years of being a professional speaker, thank you, Pfizer Rare Disease, for empowering me to be a speaker who’s paid to think instead of just show up and throw up. This photo sums it all up. I have new friends at Pfizer. I hope that I’ve raised the bar for the next speaker who comes after me to speak to them.