Speaking in front of any group is stressful enough. Speaking with the added pressure to generate more business from that speech is another level of stress. One of my clients called me because he was facing that daunting situation. He was tasked with delivering a 30 minute speech to 150 financial industry colleagues. His audience was a mix of competitors and prospects. His company was sending him to the conference for PR and to drum up new client relationships. The pressure was on. He specifically had questions centered around how to end the presentation. I was very proud of him for “starting with the end in mind.” His goal was to have people who were interested in learning more about his topic to meet with him and his colleague after the presentation. Not a problem at all. But… Here is what typically happens in those scenarios. The presenter will say, “And with me today is Bill. Bill, raise your hand so everyone can see you.” Then everyone rustles in the their seats turning left and right, craning their necks trying to figure our where Bill is seated. Of course, Bill only waves his hand for a moment and only a small percentage of the audience even catch a glimpse of Bill’s arm. They still aren’t sure what Bill looks like. The presenter continues, “Bill and I will be available to talk with you after the speech and answer any questions you might have. So, find us and we’ll be happy to talk with you.”
Did you catch the problem(s)?
The speaker just created a scenario where the audience has multiple hurdles before having a simple conversation with you.
1) Who was that Bill guy? I didn’t get a good look at him.
2) I don’t know where in the room Bill is.
3) Hmmm…should I talk to Bill, or should I talk with the speaker? 3) I’m kind of interested, but don’t have a specific request or idea to talk about with them. Meh. Forget it. I’m going to enjoy the break between sessions and get a coffee instead. Coffee!
So, here is the easy-to-use advice I gave my client.
- Plan ahead with Bill and tell him to stand at the back of the room during – or at least near the end of – the presentation.
- When you introduce Bill, specifically state where he is. “And my colleague, Bill, is standing at the back right corner of the room. Bill, raise your hand so everyone can see you.” This makes it easier for people to identify Bill and there’s no time waisted on people turning every which way trying to triangulate Bill’s location.
Question: why do you place your colleague at the back of the room up instead of up front, near you?
Because you have a better chance of making more contacts. The people in the back will gravitate towards your colleague and the people up front will more than likely walk up and talk to you. Our nature is to choose the easiest path possible. Without your colleague in the back, some people might just walk out because the exit is closer than having to walk up front to talk. We are inherently lazy creatures. Know it, accept it, use it. Now, to increase post-speech discussion, I told my client that we might need to motivate them a little more than just saying, come talk to us. So, we came up with a few ideas on how to end a speech in a way that would intrigue and entice more people to approach him and Bill after the presentation.
While the specific advice I gave him might not apply to you, here are a few general ideas that you can customize and put to use:
- Offer a bonus. If they talk with you, then they can get a code that grants them access to a virtual bonus information center.
- Give helpful materials … not promotional materials – no one really cares about a brochure describing when and where your company was founded. A workbook, pocket reminder list, or anything tangible that will help them remember or take your teachings further is good.
- Feed them. I know, this one sounds a bit silly, but it works! People in conferences feel like caged, underfed animals. Mention that you have a small bowl of chocolates near you and watch the herd come in. A common thread in influence is that our most primal drives can be our most powerful.
- Close the loop. You can bring more people to you afterward by saying, “I didn’t have enough time to cover this last point – which is one of my favorites. If you’re interested, I’ll hold a free webinar in a few days and go over what we didn’t have time for today.”
- Story Intrigue. To encourage interaction, you can say, “And if you come up to talk to us afterward, be sure to ask us how we helped one company go from near bankruptcy to 50 billion dollars in a week.” Or…some other type of story that is intriguing, puts you/your company in a positive light (i.e. an example of a win), highlights beneficial information for your audience, and ties to the main theme of your presentation.
Covey said it best, start with the end in mind. It’s true in building business that go from good to great, and it’s true in presentations. Any time you want to influence behavior, you must ask yourself, what is the specific outcome I want? Then reverse engineer how to make that happen. The end of the speech should be the beginning of an opportunity.