We each have an important message to share, but at the same time, if we don't deliver our message in a way that our audience can receive it, we will fail. And all the wonderful things we have to say will never make their destination.
Remember these tips when you're preparing to meet your customers -- your host, your organizer, your event planner, and your audience.
1. Treat the customer as the most important part of your job -- not an interruption of it.
How many times have you found yourself annoyed by a difficult, challenging, or off-topic audience question? How many times have you secretly wished that people would follow your game plan as you've envisioned it and stop interrupting with their comments that don't advance your point?
Those of us who take the stage well-prepared and well-organized can sometimes be thrown off when the audience doesn't play along as expected. Those of us who throw presentations together at the last minute will be even more flustered. Realize that each member of the audience lives in and makes her/his own reality and that your perfect little presentation may not jive with this person's perceptions and understanding.
Understand that people come from all walks of life and have all kinds of knowledge and life experience that they will bring to your presentation. Do your best to create a new world for each audience, but know that individuals will act based on their own worlds. Expect it, go with it, be ready for it.
2. Make sure your stress doesn't translate over the phone (or by e-mail or on the stage).
You may be under a lot of stress, because heck, preparing for a speaking engagement and giving a presentation can be stressful. But don't blab about it or take it out on your host, your organizer, or your audience. Because they don't care, and all you will accomplish is ruining your chances of being asked back. You're there for THEM. You serve THEM. Period.
3. Make sure to acknowledge if the customer has waited for an extended period of time and apologize for the wait.
Stuff happens. Air conditioning goes haywire. Cars break down. A/V staff forgets to set up the equipment you need. If your audience is inconvenienced by being made to wait, by being put in an uncomfortable situation, by not receiving their morning coffee... acknowledge the problem and then move on.
Don't dwell on it, don't be overly solicitous, and don't beat yourself up. Let the audience know that you care about their comfort and their time, sincerely apologize, and then get on with your planned event.
4. Don’t spread the stress -- help take on some of the burden.
You may not be the one stressed out, but you may be working with an event planner who is falling apart. Instead of feeding off the crazy, offer to help. Be the speaker everyone enjoys working with. Make yourself part of the team instead of the prima donna who waltzes in, does her thing in isolation, and then takes off without a thank you or a handshake.
5. Always suggest a different item if we don’t carry something a customer wants.
Find a way to meet your audience's needs, even if you don't have all the answers. Don't be afraid to refer your contacts to resources outside your area of expertise. I'm not a voice expert, so when people have questions about voice training or voice care that are outside my narrow scope of knowledge, I'm happy to refer them to professionals who are experts.
You can't be everything to all people, so don't drive yourself crazy trying, or feel like a failure because you can't answer every single question. Be a giver, not a hoarder. Share your information and resources freely and you will be appreciated and rewarded for your generosity.
6. Have a good time while you work.
If you're not having a good time, how can you expect your audience to have a good time? And if you think it's wrong to have a good time during a business presentation, you might need an attitude adjustment.
Think of the most memorable and successful presentations you've attended, the ones where you got the most value and impact. What engaged you? What kept your attention? What helped you learn and retain the most information? I bet it wasn't a boring speaker who droned on in a monotone with slides so densely packed you couldn't read them. Enough said.
During this holiday season, you are probably out and about even more than usual. You might be doing a lot of shopping, attending holiday parties, traveling, and dealing with more retail, restaurant and hospitality employees than usual.
Take a look at the most successful examples of good customer service and think about how you can apply them to your speaking engagements.
Share your additional customer service tips in the comments!