Well, if you’re the only speaker, and if it’s expected of you, next comes the Q&A session. Do you know your topic well enough to answer every question?
Even if you think you do, you can be surprised. As for me, I already know there will be questions I’m not prepared for, so I keep a few blank pages and a pen handy on the podium or a nearby table so I can jot down questions I don’t know the answers to. I’m not shy about saying, “I’ll get back to you on that,” and I make sure the questioners give me a contact address so I can get back to them.
Invariably, one of those hands held in the air will belong to someone who can’t speak above a whisper. Do the rest of the audience a favor and repeat the question. That’s a pet peeve of mine in public speaking. I can’t always tell by the answer what the question was, and it doesn’t cost a thing to repeat it. After you’ve answered, give the questioner a chance to indicate you’ve answered sufficiently, but don’t get involved in a long, drawn-out discussion to the exclusion of everyone else.
As with delivering the speech, work the room. Move from one side to the other to accept questions from all over, but also to include others in the answers. Maintain eye contact, and watch expressions and body language, particularly signs people are getting restless. That’s a sure indication that it’s time to shut down, say thanks, and sidle on over to the sidelines.
Be appreciative of the opportunity. Thank everyone for the invitation and for listening to you for how ever long it was that they remained seated and didn’t throw tomatoes at you.
If you’ve obtained permission ahead of time to sell your books, be ready to autograph them. As much as I hate to admit it, at my first book signing I flubbed a couple of autographs trying to write personal messages and talk too. Before the signing, I had autographed several books for reviewers with a pithy “Enjoy the Ride” (for Give the Lady a Ride), followed by my name. I’d written it so many times I barely had to think about it. After messing up a couple of times, I resorted to the familiar. You may want to do the same.
Even if you don’t have anything to sell after the speech, make yourself available to answer the questions of those too shy to talk in front of others. Extra time counts and is appreciated.
Take a Guest Book with you for names and addresses of folks you’ve connected with. One of the benefits of being a public speaker is networking with others. Don’t lose contact. Also, don’t shy away from others who may need your help. Someone somewhere helped you get to where you are. As they say, “Pay it forward.”
Unless you discovered your house is on fire or your plane takes off in ten minutes, stay awhile and enjoy the company of your colleagues. For many of us, it’s a rare treasure to chat with others about our passion. Don’t overstay your welcome, but don’t rush out the door either.
Public speaking isn’t for everyone, but it is an effective promotional tool. Intense preparation, a strong delivery, and a gracious exit can bring you the opportunity to use that tool more often.