THE ART AND BUSINESS OF SPEAKING

Are You Asking the Right Questions? 14 Key Questions to Ask Before Accepting a Speaking Engagement

Are You Asking the Right Questions? 14 Key Questions to Ask Before Accepting a Speaking Engagement

The phone rings. It’s a CEO you’ve never met, but he says a colleague told him about your high-quality keynote after seeing you some years ago. The CEO adds that your hand-out material is very insightful on the use of stories, and he would like to hire you for the opening keynote for his international conference nine months away. The focus is on “stories that educate the audience.”

You respond, “Wow! You bet!” You enthusiastically accept the assignment, and your assumption factory goes into overdrive. You think, “We’re a perfect fit. My handout will be the guide for my keynote.” Over the next few months, you talk with the CEO, who is now your client. You enjoy your conversations, and naturally assume that his expectations and your original assumptions are aligned with the stars. Then, two months before the keynote, your bubble bursts when you get a dose of reality:

You tell him the story that will open your keynote, and it goes over like a lead balloon. His response? “Well, we sure don’t want anything like that!” Huh? What’s he talking about? You wonder where you went wrong. Clearly, the two of you were never on the same page. Why? Because you didn’t ask the right questions to identify his specific expectations after the initial phone call. You can’t assume anything. Here are some key questions you should ask before accepting a speaking engagement:

  1. What do you want my keynote to accomplish?
  2. What do you want your audience to do or do better as a result of my presentations?
  3. How would these results affect their professional and/or personal lives?
  4. Do you want me to provide further guidance for implementing any new behavior or strategy?
  5. What is their current attitude about the topic?
  6. Do you want me to provide a specific first step in a plan of action designed to produce a desired change?
  7. How receptive is the audience to change?
  8. How will you measure the results of my presentation in three to six months?
  9. May I talk to a few members of the audience soon to better understand their common needs?
  10. What is your experience with story?
  11. Would you like me to use a story as an example of how your ideas, products and/or services are of real value to your clients and customers?
  12. What are audience members doing right?
  13. Is there anything we should celebrate?
  14. Is there anything I shouldn’t say or imply?

You will think of more questions that apply to your client and presentation. Specificity and good listening will guide you.

Max Dixon

Max Dixon

After 31 years of teaching theatre performance and public speaking courses at the university level, Max Dixon has become an international keynote speaker, author and speaking coach. His enthusiastic clients include professional speakers, attorneys, financial advisers, engineers, artists and athletes. Dixon also speaks on The Power of Story in a Corporate Setting and Depth Perception: Taking Your Message to Another Level.
Max Dixon
Max Dixon

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