Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on Linkedin

10 power questions you must ask when your speech hits a wall

There we were – stuck in the boardroom on a Tuesday afternoon, three drafts in on a keynote speech – and I’d pretty much wrung all the best stuff out of my executive’s head.

He was done.

But his speech was not.

The holes toward the end were gaping.

Meanwhile, the clock was ticking.

Just two more days until we had to share the final version with the conference lead.

Power questions to the rescue.

“Why don’t we call Michael and Renee and ask them, ‘What do you think?’” I suggested.

“Great idea!” my executive said, and away we went.

A mere 45 minutes later, we’d uncovered a treasure trove of new material that immediately made his argument sound, and his dots well connected.

Three heads are better than one

Do you have a speech in progress with gaping holes? Weak arguments? Flimsy examples?

Get a new perspective. Find two colleagues you trust. Share your ideas. Tell them what’s flawed and what’s missing. Then ask them these power questions:

  1. “What do you think?”
  2. “What do you mean by that?”
  3. “Can you give me an example of that?”
  4. “What do you like most about this approach?”
  5. “What do you like least about this approach?”
  6. “Have you ever dealt with anything similar before? What happened?”
  7. “Why do you think that happened?”
  8. “Can you tell me more about that?”
  9. “What do you think are the best next steps?”
  10. “What else can we do?”

“Good questions challenge your thinking. They reframe and redefine the problem. They throw cold water on our most dearly held assumptions, and force us out of our traditional thinking. They motivate us to learn and discover more,” write Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas in the first chapter of their book “Power Questions: Build Relationships, Win New Business, and Influence Others.”

I love power questions, because whenever I’m feeling stuck on a speech, power questions get me unstuck. Every single time.

So the next time you find yourself spinning your wheels as you try to finish a speech, stop and ask two colleagues power questions like these.

When you do, I guarantee you’ll conjure up some brilliant new ideas that will shift your speech out of neutral, jump start your brain and propel you toward that glorious reward.

The finish line!