Today is a personal story that came out of an extremely painful experience. Early on
in my business, I learned the hard way how to put together a successful speaking event for a group of professionals.
I prepared for two weeks, got together great content, and was eager to answer any and all questions from the audience. I was on fire!
Once I got up on stage, it didn’t take long for my enthusiasm to be squashed. I made three critical mistakes that day that sent me home with zero leads to follow up with afterwards.
I started my talk with the usual introduction, and then moved into content. As I was going though each of my points, the hands started to go up. Questions started flying my way, and I was actually quite happy with the way I was able to handle and fully answer them. The crowd loved it! The questions started to come even more fast and furious.
Soon after, there were so many questions, the room started to talk amongst themselves. Then, things got so out of control with side conversations, that another business consultant felt the need to jump in with their expertise and appease the hungry crowd.
I lost control of my room. I never got to finish my presentation AND now another consultant was wooing my audience! Nice opportunity for that chick, right?
I left there feeling terrible. My talk ran out of time, and people told me what a great presentation I had, but I heard from no one afterwards.
Hard lesson learned. Here are three keys ways to conduct a successful talk, lead the room, and walk out with gaggles of follow-up appointments.
Step 1: Always command the room: Drive your audience to look where you want them to look. Instruct them to take out a piece of paper and write down key points, get buy-in by asking them questions they will respond "yes" to. Get them raising their hands. This establishes you as the leader of the pack.
Step 2: Delay the Q&A: Have you ever owned fish? If you keep feeding them, they will keep eating! This is no different than your audience. Think of your “free” advice during Q&A like fish food. Your audience will consume it, and always ask for more…as long as you allow them to do so! If you answer all of their questions, then why would they need you going forward?
Step 3: Turn audience questions into a one-on-one conversations: Drive all questions to the back of the room after your talk. Invite people to schedule some complimentary time with you. Bring your calendar, an assistant, and schedule time with them before they leave the room. This way you don’t have to chase people, and fling endless emails back and forth trying to coordinate schedules. Everyone’s situation is different, and carving out special time to be focused and attentive to their issues is a much better way to serve your people. Be sure to get them scheduled before they leave the room. Because once they leave, you are now an afterthought. You will be competing with the 50 zillion other things that will come across their radar.
These steps are what keep audiences engaged, and gives them an opportunity to speak candidly about their situation once everyone has left the building. Being the great listener you are, now you can turn a room full of strangers into your best clients.