One of my favorite blogs is Warren Berger’s A More Beautiful Question. His questions are always illuminating – before even the answers start to flow. And that of course is his point. Recently Berger has identified the changing nature of leadership from authoritarian to more coach-like as part of a cultural move from answers to questions. I guess that’s good news for coaches, who (as Warren points out) are in the business of asking the right question at the right moment to spark insight in their clients and help them move forward. He’s inspired me to pose a series of questions that I believe are essential for speakers to ponder as they grow in their craft and become better at what they do. So be warned. Normally, I’m offering answers in my blog posts. Today, it’s questions. Twenty of them. If you just want the answers, then skip this one.

1.What do you love about the art of public speaking?

2.What do you hate about public speaking?

3.How do you feel about a life on the road?

4.In what ways does the relationship between speaker and audience sustain you, and in what ways not?

5.What do you want your audiences to remember of your presentation?

6.What do you want your audiences to do differently as a result of having heard your presentation?

7.What do you fear most about giving a presentation?

8.What from the past haunts you about public speaking? Were you not good enough once? Was there an audience that didn’t like you? Was there a speech that didn’t land? Was there a speech that you didn’t give that you wanted to – or should have? What are you holding on to?

9.Who are the speakers and venues that you envy?

10.Why do you feel impelled to speak?

11.What are your best memories of speaking?

12.Who inspires you in their speaking?

13.What speakers make you want to give up?

14.How do you divide your time between delivering ideas and creating them?

15.What’s your overall elevator pitch?

16.At what point do you come alive on stage – before you walk on, when you walk on, or three minutes after you start?

17.What are the physical effects of speaking on you?

18.What are the emotional effects of speaking on you?

19.What do you want the audience to be saying about you afterwards?

20.What are you going to say in your last speech?

You’re going to confront these questions in one form or another if you devote even part of your professional life to public speaking. Thinking about them deliberately will help you be intentional and deliberate about your career rather than accidental. And looking them over, if there are any that you can’t answer, at least provisionally, then you’re not ready for prime time professionally speaking.

The business of professional speaking has become more and more competitive since the Great Recession. The influence of TED means that the stakes keep getting raised on speakers to become more and more crisp, entertaining, and life-changing. And the sheer number of new speakers means that the field keeps getting more and more crowded. To stand out, speakers are thinking of more and more extreme ways to label and portray themselves. The results are not all good, but you can’t ignore the increased competition and so thinking about questions like these will help you keep focused on the right things and keep moving your career forward.

And good luck.

Come find answers with us at our one-day conference on Powerful Public Speaking, Oct 28 in Boston – details here!



  1. Great post, Nick! (And thanks for the kind words about my blog). It’s so important for all us of to “step back” and ask these kinds of questions about the things we may be doing automatically or taking for granted. I also think it’s great for people have a big, ambitious “mission question” that they can ponder and pursue over time (mine is, How might I encourage more questioning?)

  2. Great blog Nick! Love these questions and definitely worthwhile for every professional speaker to stop, reflect and answer them to really elevate this profession and our own performances. Thanks for all the great work you do.

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