critical advice from hiring decision makers
Ask the Right Questions
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
You respond, “Wow! You bet!”
You enthusiastically accept the assign-
ment, and your assumption factory
goes into overdrive. You think, “We’re
a perfect fit. My hand-out 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,
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
Here are some key questions
you should ask before accepting a
What do you want my keynote
What do you want your audience
to do or do better as a result of
How would these results
affect their professional and/or
Do you want me to provide
further guidance for implementing any new behavior or strategy?
What is their current attitude
about the topic?
Do you want me to provide a
specific first step in a plan of
action designed to produce a
How receptive is the audience
How will you measure the results
of my presentation in three to
May I talk to a few members of
the audience soon to better understand their common needs?
What is your experience
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?
What are audience members
Is there anything we should
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.
After 31 years of teaching
theatre performance and
public speaking courses at
the university level, Max
Dixon has become an inter-
national keynote speaker, author and speak-
ing 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.