Steve Sargent, president and CEO of GE Australia and New Zealand, runs through a four-point checklist--sometimes in just 30 seconds--before every organized communication event, from small meetings to large speeches.

The four questions he asks himself seem obvious, but that's exactly why they're on his checklist: they're essential.

They also allow him to customize his talks, depending on the situation, because every communication event exerts its own particular strategic pull: stock analysts require one thing, internal meetings with the product development team require quite another.

The critical goal is to be clear about what needs to be accomplished and tailor the messaging accordingly. This list helps Sargent do that on the fly, and he says he'd always forget one of these four questions if he didn't check each one off.

So follow in Sargent's footsteps, and remember to ask yourself these four crucial questions before you start talking:

1. What are the messages I want to convey?

2. What are the actions/behaviors I want the audience to do as a result?

3. How do I want them to feel?

4. How should I adjust my style to the audience?