Build Rapport Before You Take The Stage As A Public Speaker

Oct 23, 2019 | Social Media Marketing | 0 comments


When done well, speaking can be the best way to attract high-paying clients. To repeat: when done well.

Debbie Peterson has presented to thousands of employees, leaders and clients at various sized organizations. She has learned a thing or two about connecting with an audience.

Peterson and I shared the stage at a small conference in Minneapolis in October. I was impressed with her ability to build rapport.

I discovered Peterson is a professional member of the National Speakers Association and the author of Clarity: How Smart Professionals Create Career Success on Their Terms. In addition to being paid to speak, her speeches help her find clients who want a career coach.

Peterson shared her top tips on how to build rapport with an audience before you take the stage:

Have a good recent headshot. “Have you ever seen a picture for an obituary that was clearly taken in high school? Well, speakers can be guilty of the same thing. This picture will be all over the event marketing materials, and you want your audience to recognize you when you get there. If you’ve gone to a much different hairstyle, don’t have to bother with hair anymore, started wearing contacts or perhaps aged more than a bit, then you’ll want to update your headshots.”

Create a promotional video. “This is a way that your audience can get not only a glimpse of your content but of your style. This allows you to connect face to face without having arrived at the event yet.”

Send a LinkedIn connection.  “I get the pre-event roster from the meeting professional and send a LinkedIn request with a message that I’m glad to be their keynote speaker for their upcoming event and that I’m looking forward to meeting them in person. I also give them a chance to ask a question related to my topic. The question allows you to connect with those in the audience that may be more introverted. A LinkedIn request is also not as invasive as sending an email an people are more likely to accept it.”

Attend a pre-event function. “Usually, there is some sort of function in the evening before I speak. I’m there meeting people and getting to know more about them and their roles in their organization. It allows me to ask questions, get examples I can work into my presentation, and do a shout out or two from stage which is an instant group rapport-building technique. I also, however, can ask for introductions to people within the organization that I might not be able to meet otherwise.”

Work the room. “If I open the conference, I am down to the room early so I can go to breakfast, not to eat, but to casually work the room with my cup of coffee. I say hello, tell them how happy I am to be here, and tell them to let me know if they have any questions. If I’m on later in the day then I do this at lunch too. Stand close to the door when people start to come in and say hi. People will begin to notice you.”

Your job as a public speaker is not to just show up and throw up your PowerPoint. Your job is to make connections. If networking is good, being a speaker who builds rapport is the greatest networking opportunity to attract high-paying clients. While your content is important, ultimately it is the experience you create with the audience that serves you well.


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