Congratulations. Your speech to the International Biometrics Association was a hit. A line of people are waiting to congratulate you and pay compliments. Many are simply being kind and expressing appreciation. However, at least some have a more serious purpose in approaching you: They want to tell you how the industry-specific problem you spoke about affects their company.
It’s the Holy Grail of Public Speaking
This is the outcome that justifies all the prep time, travel and expense. How you manage the interaction will determine whether your effort and investment were justified or wasted, whether it’s just glad-handing or a path to a real prospect.
We’ve all experienced these post-speech encounters:
“Hi, Jane. Steve Reese. I’m president of Innovative Biometrics. I really enjoyed your presentation. You understand how tech startups in a hot space face fierce competition for engineering, sales and executive talent, and how they poach people from one another. However, we’re experiencing the problem a little differently than you described it.”
As tempting as it is to get into this discussion with Steve, you have to discipline yourself not to. After all, there are six more people in line behind Steve, and they’re not going to wait long. You may also have to vacate the meeting space fairly quickly if there’s another session scheduled there, and your guests will want to get to their next sessions. Besides, Steve isn’t going to hire you right here, right now. And he’s not going to get into any meaningful specifics with other ears close by.
Is It More than Glad-Handing? Reading the Signals
All you know at this point is that your public remarks motivated Steve to take this first step, to make himself known to you, and to acknowledge that his company is subject to the “door-opener” problem about which you spoke.
Maybe it’s lucky timing, or maybe something you said crystallized some aspect of the issue, causing Steve to conclude he needs to move this up his priority list. Or maybe it’s something else entirely. However, by walking up to you and acknowledging that his company faces that problem, Steve has given you a signal similar to that of someone who walks into a retail store: They have a reason to care about what you represent.
Your Technique for Moving the Conversation
What we know for sure is that those who approach you want to talk. We just have to manage the where and when. Your goal now is to gently dissuade Steve from talking about it here and now in favor of a more private conversation when you both have more time. And you have to do it quickly and smoothly without Steve feeling like you’re trying to get rid of him.
Your technique must be based on a benefit to Steve:
Jane: “Steve, nice to meet you. Thanks for your kind review of my talk, and for sharing a bit about your perspective. One of the great opportunities in these types of forums is drilling down into how these issues affect individual companies. I’d love to learn more about what you just touched on. This isn’t very private, though. Might we schedule a call after you return to your office?”
Steve: “Sure, Jane, although things are always a bit crazy after I’ve been away for a few days. Let’s make it the week after next.”
Jane: “Let me make it easier, Steve. How about if I send you an email later next week to see what might be convenient?”
Steve: “That’s a good idea. Here’s my card.”
Those waiting to speak with you will hear how you handled this. They will know that you’re not going to delay them by getting into a long conversation with anyone right now. That should encourage them to wait another few minutes while you triage those ahead of them.
Next month: How to handle the follow-up like a pro.
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