You take the trouble to speak in public to share your knowledge, and to attract people you want to know for your business. Beyond the expertise you offer in your presentation or on your panel, the next most significant event is speaking to those from the audience who want to connect with you.
Handling those crowds is more effective if you are prepared, and can make them all be comfortable enough to wait in line to speak with you. Here are some tactics:
- Move away from the podium. If the room is needed for the next speaker, move into the hallway or the speakers lounge (if it is nearby) with your crowd.
- If you can, set a stack of your business cards a full arm’s reach away from you on a table, so folks can pick one up if they don’t want to speak with you directly at this time, or cannot wait in line for the chance, or if they want to learn more before contacting you.
- Keep more of your business cards in your left hand pocket.
- Acknowledge the line of people waiting to speak with you, with a nod and a welcoming smile at the line.
- Focus on the person in front of you. Offer direct eye contact and shake hands (with your right hand) while offering your business card with your left (from your left hand pocket).
- Focus on the person’s name so you know it. Ask for their card.
- If they hand you a laminated card (all the rage just now, but you cannot write on them), pull out a post-it (2 1/2 inch by 1 inch) from your pocket and write your notes on that.
- You must take notes on the cards. You will not remember what each person said. Not even later tonight. And remembering will distract you from the next person in line.
- Set aside high-maintenance talkers who disregard the others in line. Smile deeply at them, and say “Please, I want to attend to your questions in depth. Let me speak with these people who are waiting, and come back to you in a few minutes to speak in more detail.” If that person objects, ask them to phone you the next day (offer specific times you will be at your desk). If they phone, they are serious; if not, it won’t matter.
If you are wise, you will have offered your URL and email address during your introduction before speaking, so those who did not wait can still contact you.
Allowing yourself to be accessible in these ways will smooth the way to expanding your network of colleagues, contacts, prospects, customers and clients.