Supercompetent Speaking: Before and After Tips

Connect with your audience members in advance and increase the expectation quotient.

By Laura Stack, MBA, CSP

As professional speakers, it’s our goal to implant our messages firmly in our listeners’ minds. But some research indicates that 90 percent of audience members forget every brilliant thing you uttered within 30 days. To use a computing analogy, if the speech’s underlying message doesn’t get written into long-term storage, then new experiences eventually crowd it out of the listener’s short-term memory buffer.

How do you keep your message from becoming part of this depressing statistic? Not just by providing a thought-provoking, enthusiastic speech, but also by interacting with the audience both before and after your talk—in ways that help them affix your message in their permanent memories. Let’s take a look at a few tips for the “bookends” of your presentation.

Before

If someoneexpects something to be wonderful and valuable, then they’re more likely to experience it as wonderful and valuable. So try these things to connect with your audience members in advance and increase the expectation quotient:

  1. In your handout, provide a bio that provides plenty of information about you, including the problems you solve, your specialties, your results with your clients, and all the great things you plan to talk about. Include a recent picture of yourself, smartly dressed, so attendees know what you look like.
  2. If presenting at a conference, attend as much of it as possible, so you can mingle and network with the crowd—at least the session right before yours. Tell the people you meet a little about yourself and the subject you’re going to speak on, and invite them to attend your talk. Make references as appropriate in your talk to other speakers and comments.
  3. Arrive early to your talk, so you can greet people as they enter the venue. Introduce yourself warmly, with a smile and handshake, to as many of them as possible. Listen closely to the people you meet and look for common areas of interest. Don’t just talk about the subject of your speech. This can help you establish rapport and acquire last-minute anecdotes to further fine-tune your speech.
  4. Use quiet, instrumental music to set the mood as people enter. If the room lacks a built-in sound system, a small stereo or even an unobtrusive iPod with speakers may work just fine. Make sure the hotel or the client has the proper license to broadcast music.

After

When you’re finished speaking, don’t just leave the room. Now is the time to solidify your efforts, so your audience members will remember what you’ve taught them and carry it forward into their daily lives. Here are some ways to encourage this:

  1. Cheerfully ask for questions if the timetable and lecture structure permit it. Prime the pump as necessary, and graciously accept and answer any question you receive. Your answers can help you reinforce your message and continue selling your ideas.
  2. In your handouts, provide more information about your message and your general services, including your contact information. Point them toward your newsletter, blog, and social media coordinates. That way, you can continue to serve them with new knowledge, and they’ll remember you and your message long after lesser messages have faded.
  3. Maintain professional behavior even after you’ve left the stage. People are always watching you.
  4.  Follow up with the people who have left you a business card or to whom you’ve made promises.

Unforgettable

Ultimately, consider yourself a teacher—whether you provide advice on honing time management skills, inspire people to greater heights, or sell a product or service. As a teacher, you aim to present your audience with new information that can improve their lives. The difficult part is making them pay attention and remember it. Anything you can do to encourage this will pay profitable dividends in the long run, so don’t neglect the time before and after your presentations. They’ll give you an edge over all those other presenters, whose messages the audience most likely will forget before the end of the month.

Laura Stack has consulted with Fortune 500 corporations for nearly 20 years in the field of personal productivity and is the best-selling author of several books, including “Supercompetent.” She is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) and the 2011-2012 president of the National Speakers Association (NSA). Stack’s productivity-improvement programs have been used worldwide at companies such as Starbucks, Wal-Mart, Cisco Systems, and Bank of America. She is the creator of The Productivity Pro planner by Day-Timer. For more information, visit www.TheProductivityPro.comor www.NSAspeaker.org.

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