In June 1990 I drove with my business partner at the time, to meet with His Excellency Mr. Sultan bin Sulayem, who was then the Chairman of the Jebel Ali Free Zone.
The meeting had been set up because Sulayem had been invited to speak at the Confederation of British Industry in UK about how British companies might like to invest in the Zone. The head of the Dubai Promotion Board had figured it might be nice if someone wrote his speech and perhaps coached him a little on his delivery technique. We were a boutique consultancy doing work for the Board, so we were asked to “lend a hand”. Anyway, we put together a 20-Slide presentation, and wrote a script to go with the slides. Sulayem did his homework like he was told, and submitted to a practice session, and off he went. The trip was a success, he kept to his 20-minute time-slot (one minute per slide); and at the end, everyone clapped; mission accomplished. From then on for about five years, we wrote all of Sulayem’s speeches, and not just for him, for other Excellencies too; after the word got around that people tended to clap when you delivered one of our presentations, rather than going to sleep and having to be woken-up at the end.
The whole point of this is that if you have policy and someone can spiel the detail of the vision so that the crowd gets enthused, you are able to push through ideas more effectively.
During that time, we managed to sell the idea that if the Zone was to be successful, then it might be a good idea to devote some very modest resources, as in put money into our pockets – (since the “speech” thing was a complete loss-leader for the time we spent), to find out (a) who were the potential customers, and (b) what they might want, that the Zone could offer? That was a pretty radical idea at the time. So we got hired to do research, we pulled together information on all the Free Zones in the world, we did cross-section analysis, and we interviewed everyone who had expressed an interest the zone (mainly on the telephone). Based on that we kind of eased the marketing strategy away from “this is what we got, take it or leave it”, into “this is how we can meet your needs and exceed your expectations”. Whether we had any effect is impossible to know, but from flat-lining for the ten previous years, the numbers of new arrivals and also the exports from the Zone went up by 40% a year (compounded) for four years.And whether what we learned applies directly to America’s story, I don’t know, most of the “customers” were European, or from the region. The point of that story is that we found out a lot about why corporations, Europeans, in particular, some Americans, were moving out of the “safety” behind the wall that keeps the “Great Unwashed” separated from the “Great Washed”, into the “danger zone”. Seeing as that was twenty years ago (or so); and when we started off there were only 300 companies registered in the Zone; now there are over 6,000, so I don’t think I’m breaking any client confidentiality by “sharing”.
So speech writing is an art - and I'm not surprised at all that the speeches were written. I am surprised that the speeches were a loss leader to get to be able to do the big strategic piece about the freezones in Dubai. And we all know, the freezones were part of the honeypot to Dubai - and one of her big successes.
It's worth reading Andrew Butter's little story.