Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Week 13: Following up after a speech

Plenty of speakers focus on preparation and delivery. But in week 13 of Stephanie's online coaching, I want to be sure she--and all of you--keep in mind what happens after your speech. How and whether you follow up with your organizers, audience and followers can make the difference between a good speech and a great one. Here's my checklist of steps you should take after a speech, and these tips work for meeting presentations and small-group talks as well as formal speeches:
  • Thank those who invited you. That may be a program committee or individual organizer, as well as anyone who recommended you as a speaker to the group in question.  If your "speech" was a presentation in a meeting, thank the person who chaired it as well as the person who asked you to present.  And don't just thank them from the lectern during your presentation--write an email, or speak to them in person directly after you speak, or both. Organizers and meeting chairs need feedback, and you can use this opportunity to let them know your interest in speaking again.  Pave the way for future talks now. 
  • Thank those who went above-and-beyond for you.  All sorts of things can and will go wrong during presentations. Did someone (or a group) rally around to help you get through it? From the audio-visual team to the organizers or audience, be sure to take the time to let them know how much they helped you.  Sometimes, you can find ways to thank them publicly, as I did in this blog post sharing what could have been a disastrous presentation made wonderful by the collective efforts of the board of Science Writers in New York when I spoke to their group in May.  If it's a group you'd always want to have your back in a troubled presentation, say so.  (This step also may apply to someone behind the scenes: The person who let you rehearse endlessly, the person who handled the technology, and others.)
  • Talk to individual audience members:  Don't just dash off after you speak. Be sure to allow another 15 - 30 minutes to mingle with individuals and take questions from them.  Keep in mind that many audience members--even in small meetings--won't want to ask a public question (and that may be particularly true for women, who tend to prefer one-on-one interaction).  As the speaker, it's up to you to be available. If these contacts ask you for more information, be sure to write or call them soon after your presentation to follow up.
  • Be sure people know how and where to find you later.  Bring business cards or a paper handout with your contact information--and please don't just note your contact points on a slide.  If possible, work with the meeting organizer to make sure each participant has your materials.
  • Share additional resources.  One way to take some pressure off your presentation is to decide to focus your remarks tightly, but share more information as an ongoing reference.  I've switched from paper handouts and materials to posting additional points on my blogs to make resources and links widely available, and I sometimes post video of the Q&A with longer answers than I can give in a presentation.
  • Let people know you're available to speak to other groups.  Don't think this is obvious. Your materials, take-aways and even the last part of your presentation should, where appropriate, let people know your willingness to speak on this topic again.
  • Share information on the success of your speech, and share your materials.  Think of the audience beyond the room you're speaking in.  Post an update to Twitter or Facebook after you speak, share photos from the event, and post links to your materials where a wider audience can see them.  You can use sites like SlideShare or Prezi to post your slides online for others to see--check out the SlideShare section of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, where you can post slides from your recent presentations and see popular slides from other speakers.
Stephanie's just starting out as a speaker, so she won't be able to put these tips into action just yet.  But she can be thinking about what types of materials she'll use as audience resources.  And anyone can join our conversation in this week of the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday to share what you're grateful for as a speaker.

Related posts:  15 Weeks to Step Up Your Speaking contest and online coaching

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I'm delighted that this post was included in the Six Minutes blog's weekly roundup of top public speaking blog posts. Thanks to Andrew Dlugan, author of the blog!

1 comment:

Stephanie Benoit said...

There is a lot of great information! There's a lot to learn from this post. For example, I would think to thank some people from the podium or at the end of my speech, but after reading this post, I've learned some more appropriate ways to do that. I also agree and find it very imortant to leave that window of opportunity for your audience to be able to connect with you more intimately after the speech/presentation is over. Most of the time, when I see a great speaker, I usually wait for them afterwards to ask them questions or share something that I didn't want everyone to know. Last but not least, being accessible past your presentation is important as noted in the post. I make it a point to carry business cards wherever I go. See you next week!