Monday, March 26, 2012

Are you missing the value in doing public speaking?

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton spoke at Vancouver Board of Trade and Q&A with Carole Taylor by RayVanEng
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton spoke at Vancouver Board
of Trade and Q&A with Carole Taylor
a photo by 
RayVanEng on Flickr. 
Do you seek out opportunities to do public speaking?  While out in the field with coaching clients over the past couple of months, we've discovered that a lot of them have been looking for such opportunities, yet a number of them haven't been getting the results that they have wanted from the speeches they have already given.  

Let's start with a couple of simple assumptions:  that you know your topic and your platform skills are sound.  You know when to bring in visual aids to help the audience stay engaged with your message. You tell them what you're going to tell them, you tell them, and then you tell them what you just told them (classic speech structure).

Today we're going to look at your goal for doing the speech in the first place, and what you're doing around the speech to line up with that.  You might be speaking

  • To persuade an audience to agree with you on a certain topic
  • To educate about a particular issue about which you have expertise
  • To lay the foundation for the audience members to want to buy from you and your company
  • To entertain
  • __________________________
The ultimate goal of communication is to influence the behavior of the person(s) on the other end of the communication.  What behavior do you want the audience to exhibit once you have finished your speech?  Do you want them to register to vote?  Visit your company website?  Tell other people that you were the most hilarious speaker since Bob Hope and that they should also hire you?

If you want your audience to take some specific action after your speech, you need to provide a mechanism through which they can do that.  There are immediate "while the iron is hot" options available to you:
  • Registration forms for an upcoming program 
  • Your books for sale on a display in the room
  • Follow-up response cards
  • Website and newsletter sign-up sheets
If part of your goal is to generate qualified leads for sales, you can gather business cards for a drawing, and give something of value away at the end of the speech.  (Of course then you need to follow up in some way on the contact information they provided to you.)  Your speech need not be a once-and-done communication; rather it can be the beginning of an ongoing dialogue and relationship.

You might be surprised at the number of times speakers tell us war stories in the course of coaching about times that they didn't get any result from the time and effort they invested in preparing for a speaking engagement.  Yet as they answered questions about it, most of them revealed that they hadn't thought clearly enough about the goal of their speech, and that they hadn't incorporated some mechanism that would allow them to generate follow-on activity from it.  What have been your results?  What would you do differently next time?