Speaker Professional Questions

Finding your Speaking Sweet Spot

After just a little time in the speaking world you will discover that the terminology we use is far from constant. There are disagreements about what makes a ‘professional’ speaker distinct from ‘public’ speaker. If a client asks you to ‘facilitate’ a session, you have to ask a number of questions to be sure you know if they expect you to present your own topic, manage a conversation with a panel of speakers, deliver someone else’s content or have a workshop with active participants. And let’s not get started on the meaning of the famed ‘keynote’ speech.

Rather than try to agree on the terminology (we can leave that to someone else with the time and energy) what we need to do as speakers is be aware of these differences and find a way to manage them. Here are a few ideas of what you can explore.

What does the client expect?

Politely disregard the words that the client uses at the start of your discussions, and have a set of gentle questions to probe what they actually mean they want, not say they want. Questions could include:

  • What does this look like to you?
  • What should happen for you to be satisfied that my presentation worked?
  • What have speakers done before that you don’t want me to do?
  • What will the room look like and how will the audience be seated?

What kind of an audience are you best with?

  • Corporates or small business?
  • For Profit of Non Profit?
  • Academically inclined or newbies to the topic?
  • Polite listeners or actively engaged?

What are you good at?

Yes, as ‘professional’ speakers we should be able to handle a number of different elements of our profession. We should be competent MCs. We should be able to deliver a message with or without slides. We should be able to present online and on stage. And we should be able to increase or manage our interaction with the audience.

But what are you really good at? What kind of work makes you feel like you are alive, contributing value and making change? And which elements of our speaking toolkit would you prefer not to have to do?


This reflection is important because too often we unthinkingly inherit other people’s definitions of speaker success. The big fee, big stage, international corporate, semi-famous, star on the dressing room door fantasy is something too many of us speakers adopt as our goal. But is that really where you work best? Is it worth the huge and sustained effort to create that career worth it to you?

There is very important work to be done by professional speakers around the world, without us all striving for just one version of success. So explore your version and find a strategy to make it work, just for you.