You have just delivered a speech on the effect of the new tax law on employment expenses that packed the emotional wallop of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s I Had a Dream speech.
The association audience rose to clap, whistle and cheer, calling you back for an encore. You gave them some quick insights into increasing deductions for charitable donations, which was followed by over five minutes of heartfelt applause, forcing you to the podium three times to wave and bow.
Later, after the high from presenting had worn off, you asked one of the conference organizers for a list of people who had attended your session. She told you that the organization didn’t keep track of attendance at the smaller breakout sessions. During the following week you hoped for calls from members of the audience, but they never came.
You never knew it, but three of the attendees intended to call you, but didn’t get around to it. Six months later, a fourth thought of calling after arguing with her tax advisor, but couldn’t remember your name. The other sixteen people who attended the breakout session never thought of you again.
Though the audience was smaller than you remembered it, had you actually talked with the four people who thought about calling you, you would have achieved an impressive twenty percent follow-up rate.
After giving a speech, if you don’t follow up with attendees, your chances of converting any of them into clients drops to low single digits. But, you can’t follow up with them unless you know who they are. That means you have to get their names and contact information and often, as in our example, the organizers of the event can’t tell you who was there.
Withhold Slides – Not Always a Good Idea
Speakers have developed a number of ways to get the information they need. Many withhold copies of their slides before and at the event and then offer to send them to anyone in the audience who provides a business card.
Though easy and obvious, this approach has several drawbacks. First, it frustrates those attendees who want to take notes on hard copy of your materials. This clearly runs counter to your goals, and, lest you forget, the goals of the conference organizers who have given you this opportunity. It will also be ineffective, if you allow the sponsoring organization to post your slides on its website, providing the attendees an alternative access. Denying your hosts the use of your materials will frustrate them a second time.
Offer Additional Materials
You can avoid these problems by providing copies of your slides at the event and then offering additional materials, such as a whitepaper, to anyone who leaves a business card. Of course, someone will have to develop the whitepaper—a big increase in the work required to prepare. Most firms post such documents on their websites for all to see, anyway.
Pass out an Attendance Sheet
More artful speakers prepare an attendance sheet, with columns for each attendee’s name, company, email address and phone number. A few minutes before the session is scheduled to start, the speaker or her colleague gives the sheet on a clipboard to someone in the front row and asks him to sign in and pass it on. At the end of the session, she collects the sheet from wherever it has been left in the back of the room. If you ask, the sponsors of the event may discourage this tactic. It doesn’t work well for large audiences.
Pass out a Survey
During my days as a location consultant; helping companies select places for factories, offices, and research labs; I gave a presentation to a group of human resource officers on labor markets. It was at the peak of an economic boom with labor shortages in many areas. At the beginning of the presentation, I passed out a ten question survey of how companies were dealing with tight labor markets. There was a place at the bottom for participants to provide contact information to which I could send the survey results. That information was what I was after.
Better still, Question #3 asked how the respondents’ companies would address the labor shortage. They were asked to mark all the things they would do from a list that included raising wages, lowering hiring standards, advertising more heavily and other tactics. Among the tactics was move operations to a new location. Everyone who indicated that her firm was planning to use that tactic was a potential user of our services. I still feel a bit smug about that one.
If you’re interested in more on public speaking, see the blog Overnight Sensation, which even includes a blog carnival on public speaking.