February 21, 2012

Does your audience feel welcome?



On Friday I had an appointment with a new client. It was a long drive to get there, and a long drive to get back, especially on the Friday of a holiday weekend. I was probably in the car a total of seven hours. But I had such a great experience while I was there, I wasn't nearly as crabby as I could have been when I got home!

I walked into the lobby, approached the receptionists and told them who I was there to meet. They said, "Are you Lisa? We've been expecting you!" Instantly, the drive faded away. They were expecting me! Do you know how often this happens when I visit a client? NEVER. Maybe my name is on a security list from time to time, but nobody at the front desk is ever "expecting" me.

The women offered me coffee or water and asked me to wait for the assistant who would escort me to meet my client. The assistant appeared almost immediately, and said she was filling in for the regular assistant with whom I had arranged the appointment.

As we were walking to my client's office, another woman fell in behind. I asked if we should let her pass as the hallway was narrow, and she said she was on break and in no hurry. She mentioned she was one of several people who had been on call to come get me when I arrived.

Several people were on call to come get me when I arrived? How much more welcome could I feel?

I won't give too much detail, but this is a large international company, with 1,000 people working just at this one site. And every one of them is busy, right? Just like at your workplace and every workplace. My client, in particular, oversees several brands and thousands of employees on two continents. He's a busy guy, too.

And yet, I don't remember ever feeling so anticipated and welcomed by a corporate client, whether at a small or large company. Everyone I met was cheerful and seemed pleased to meet me, like I was someone important to them. Nor has anyone ever given me such a thorough tour of their operation, so I could learn about and understand the company culture before we started working, as my client himself did.

Did this make my day? It sure did.

How about you? When your audience members arrive, do they feel welcome?

Do you rush around, trying to get your equipment set up or practicing your speech, ignoring or avoiding the people filing into their seats? Do you show up at the last possible minute, hoping you can just pop right onstage and not have to interact with anyone?

Or do you purposely finish setting up early so you can greet people, chat with them, and make them feel excited to be there?

Do you introduce yourself to some audience members so you know a few people's names and can refer back to them during the presentation? Do you make an effort to learn something about your audience in general so you can incorporate relevant and customized information into your talk?

How do you make the audience feel special, like you're there just for them, like you're thrilled to finally meet them? Like you're the host and they are your most honored guests?

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