In your next presentation, seek the question

A while back a friend was invited to speak to the Board of Trustees at his institution. We discussed that while he knew the topic well, he didn’t know the exact question he was answering.

“Does there need to be a question?” he asked me.

You decide which pathway would bring him to a more resonating presentation:

#1 : Address the topic:  The college’s role in commercialization.  His likely talk: Broad, linear, maybe rambling, definitely programmatic.

#2 : Question focus (hypothetically): Why is our college’s commercialization role slipping against other universities and what can we do to regain our leading role, and furthermore, more revenue for the institution? His likely talk: audience attentive, result oriented, anecdote rich, recommendation specific, highly resonating.

So this post’s tip is: seek the question, even if your audience hasn’t expressly stated it. You must reveal the primal issue tugging at their minds to assure they will listen. And not to mention, it helps to achieve some critical presentation goals:

  • It forces you to be relevant today. (i.e. can’t use the old talk from last month)
  • It assures your talk isn’t a conversation with yourself
  • It gives your story (i.e. the answer) hope of being syndicated (i.e. repeated)
    And if you don’t know the question, don’t give the talk! Your audience will thank you for it.


Learn how to hone your speaking skills at our next Executive Presentation Style & Delivery Open Class. It will take place Friday, October 4 in Columbus. You can register here.

Ruth Milligan Articulation Executive Communication CoachRuth Milligan is the Founder, Managing Director and an Executive Coach and Trainer with Articulation. She is perhaps best known as one of the original curators for any TEDx event (the license program for TED). Since 2009, Ruth has selected and coached over 200 speakers who have taken the TEDxColumbus stage. She is often tapped as an expert in the TED-style of speaking and has authored a class on how to be a TEDx speaker coach. Connect with Ruth.