October 17, 2008

Come early and stay late

One of the easiest things you can do to alleviate anxiety before a presentation is to arrive early, hang out, and meet the audience members. Just introducing yourself and chatting with people can go a long way toward increasing your comfort level once you get up to speak.

Find out what they're interested in and why they're attending the presentation. You might even find relevant new material to integrate into your talk.

Then, once you're finished, stay for a while to mingle with those who linger. There will usually be a few people (or a lot) who want to stop by and thank you, tell you what their favorite part of the presentation was, tell you a personal story that relates to your presentation, or ask you a question.

A recent "Topic of the Month" in the SpeakerNet News newsletter addressed the issue of what to do if you're mobbed by admiring fans (we should all be so lucky) or monopolized by one audience member while others are waiting to talk, or while you're trying to get to your table to sell products or books.

Here are a couple of the responses:

"Toward the end of your presentation, mention that due to your schedule, you will have limited time to talk with people (plane to catch, long distance to drive, etc.) Then, keep your conversations short, remind people you have limited time, use closing statements ('It's been nice talking with you'), make eye contact with the next person, and move on." ~ Gene Swindell

"As for those audience members or book buyers who are long-winded, try first to glance repeatedly at the person waiting behind them to talk to you. Give the waiting person a smile, include them in your responses to the 'talker.' You might even ask the person waiting something like, “Has this been your experience?” or, 'You've been waiting to ask a question; let’s hear it.'

If those subtler tactics prove ineffective, try saying, 'This is really interesting stuff; we could go on and on, right? Why don’t you give me your card and I'll give you a call next week.' That should clearly signal that you need to end the conversation and move on." ~ Deborah Fay

Subscribe to SpeakerNet News for valuable tips and resources for speakers. It's one of only a couple newsletters that I read right when it arrives.

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