by Steve Adubato, PhD

CEOs and other corporate executives are consistently asked to make public presentations. It’s a job of a leader in the corporate world to be the face and, yes, the brand, of an organization. The same thing is true for non profits, educational institutions, and every other type of organization.

But one of the biggest mistakes that leaders make when it comes to making these presentations is to rely too heavily on their “in-house communications team” to write a speech they are expected to effectively deliver. Don’t get me wrong. Communication and/or PR professionals have great value. But, from my coaching and teaching in the field of leadership and communication, I find that too often top level professionals approach the preparation process in a sloppy and inefficient fashion.

Recently, I was talking to an executive who said he is tired of getting speeches from his communications team that he has to “rewrite and edit right up until the last minute.” There is no excuse for that. My question is, how could a speech or presentation that an executive receives from his or her communications team be so far off? The answer, very often, is that the executive gives little or no direction as to what his or her message really is. They don’t think through what type of event at which they are communicating or who the audience is that they are supposed to be motivating or inspiring.

What often happens is that speech writers or communications professionals who work for these executives wind up cutting and pasting from previous presentations or try to guess as to what the executive might want to say. That’s crazy. A more productive and smarter approach is for the executive to sit down with a communication professional and answer the following four, simple questions that work in virtually any professional and, in many cases, personal communication situations.

1. What will move, motivate and inspire my audience? (It’s about them!) How will my message play with these people? Where is their passion? What does my audience feel passionately about?

2. So…What is my main message to this audience? If they forget everything else I say…what’s the one thing I want to make sure they remember?

3. Where is my passion? How do I really feel about the message I’m delivering? Your audience needs to feel what you feel.

4. What exactly do I want my audience to do when I’m finished? Tell them. Be specific. Once you’ve communicated your message in a passionate and personal way and you’ve tapped into the audience on a human level it’s time to close the deal. Don’t leave people hanging. Give them direction and focus. Tell them exactly what you want them to do. They’ll appreciate you for it.

Recently, I used these same four questions with the insurance executive who said he had to “rewrite and edit right up until the last minute.” He said, “If I had asked myself these questions before, I would have been more focused in my presentation. Instead, I was scrambling right up until I had to speak.”

Don’t let that happen to you. Next time you have to make a presentation, run a meeting, defend a sales proposal, or whatever communication situation you are faced with, consider these four, simple, but powerful questions that will help you stand and deliver.