The business of being an influencer involves getting your name out there. Networking is the key to this endeavour. Here are two ways to network at your next speaking engagement.
No matter what business you work in, networking is a crucial part of your success. Building solid relationships with the right people helps you to establish trust. That trust opens the door to opportunities.
As a professional speaker, your network plays a key role in helping you to find engagements. The people you meet may open your eyes to events that you weren’t aware of. They can also help you to meet new clients for your programs.
Building that network is one of the major difficulties that budding influencers have to face. You have to get people to notice you before they’ll start trusting you.
The good news is that your next speaking engagement provides the perfect networking opportunity. You just need to know about the steps you have to take when you’re not on stage that will get people to connect with you.
Here are three techniques for you to try at your next engagement.
Technique #1 – Offer Handouts at Events
In an ideal world, your speech will be enough to influence people and make them want to talk to you.
But that’s not always the case. When you’re speaking at large conferences, you’re one of many people who’ll share their stories during the event. That’s a lot of information for attendees to take in. Over the course of a weekend, it’s possible for speeches to start blending into one.
It’s just human nature. A little information overload can affect how well people remember your speech.
That’s where handouts come in.
Influencers use their handouts to solidify the key threads of the speeches. The key here is that you’re not trying to give the whole speech to the recipient. That’s just going to create a bulky package that no-one wants to read. Plus it’ll cost you money.
Instead, highlight the key threads of the speech and provide your contact information. A single-page handout is more than enough for most occasions. Pop the handouts on the audience’s chairs before you head onto the stage.
How does this work as a networking tool?
When the recipients look back on the event, they can use your handout to refresh their memories about your speech. That handout also has your contact information, which means they can get in touch after the fact. It’s also much more effective than a business card, which is easy to misplace.
Technique #2 – Show Up Early
You have a ton of different tasks on your plate. When it comes to your speaking engagements, it’s possible that you’ve had to travel a fair amount to get to the conference.
The temptation is to just relax in your hotel room until it’s time to set up for your speech.
But if you do that, you’re missing out on a prime networking opportunity.
Corporate communication influencer Dave Delaney says that turning up early is crucial.
Delaney is the founder of Networking for Nice People and is a successful author and speaker in his own right.
He says: “Try to get to the conference early and stand near the registration table, entrance, or food area. These are the places where people congregate.
When you first arrive, solo attendees will especially be seeking a friendly connection. Don’t let them become wallflowers.”
That last tip is especially useful. There are plenty of people who’ll turn up to speaking engagements on their own. They’re often looking for social connections just to help them feel more comfortable. Rock up and start a conversation with them. Get to know them a little and you can start influencing them. Softly encourage these people to come to see you speak while you build a relationship.
Delaney also points out that turning up early gives you the chance to talk to event sponsors. They’re often setting up during the beginning of the conference. In fact, doing this reaped huge benefits for Delaney.
“Also, consider approaching sponsors and introducing yourself,” he says. “A casual conversation with a conference sponsor led to my book deal.”
Showing up early helped Dave Delaney secure a book deal that put money in his pocket. That book also became a networking tool in its own right.
He may have missed this massive opportunity if he’d just stayed in his hotel room.
Technique #3 – Break the “Random Stranger” Barrier
You feel confident as an influencer when you’re on stage. The spotlight’s on you and you have a captive audience. You know exactly what story you want to show people and the speech goes off without a hitch.
For many influencers, that’s the easy part.
The difficult part comes in trying to start conversations with random strangers when you're not on stage. That’s something you’re going to have to get comfortable with if you’re to network effectively at your next speaking engagement.
Heather White is a networking expert and keynote speaker. During her 2013 TEDx talk, she highlights four “cues” that you can use to spark a conversation. You can use these cues to get past that awkward introductory phase and practice meeting new people.
Heather’s four cues are as follows:
Cue #1 – The Stairway Shuffle
If you attend someone else’s speech (and you should at larger conferences), you’re going to get caught in the “stairway shuffle”. This is the period after the speech where everyone’s filing out of the room. Heather says that you shouldn’t just look down and try to get out as soon as possible.
Instead, engage someone in conversation.
Talk about the ideas the speaker shared while they’re still fresh in your mind. From there, you can let the other person know that you’re scheduled to speak too. You’ve just built a connection and encouraged someone to watch you speak. Ideally, they’ll bring a few friends along too.
Cue #2 – The Loos
This one is more specifically for the ladies.
At some point during the event, you’re going to find yourself queueing for the loo. Heather says that most people just stand awkwardly and in complete silence.
Instead of doing that, open your body up so that you can catch the eye of the person standing behind you. Flash a smile and spark up a conversation.
Heather says that using inviting body language can help you get past the awkwardness of starting a conversation. From there, you can talk about what you do.
Cue #3 – The Fred Way
Heather says that her dad taught her this one.
If there’s a buffet at the event, you have a prime opportunity to meet new people. Heather’s dad used to grab several plates and pass them down the queue behind him. This allowed him to trigger a nice quick conversation with the person next to him. It also gave him an exit from the conversation as he could wander off after getting his food.
Heather calls this “The Fred Way” after her father. It’s a nice and quick way to spark a conversation and provide yourself with the opportunity to talk briefly about what you can offer.
Cue #4 – The Sit Down
The end of someone else’s speech isn’t the only opportunity you have to break the random stranger barrier.
You can also use the beginning of the speech. Once you’ve sat down, just quickly introduce yourself to the person next to you. Talk about why you’re both interested in the speaker who’s about to come on stage. Then, work your way towards gently telling them that you’re going to speak later on.
These four clever cues help you to break through the awkwardness of starting a conversation. They show you how to use more open body language to invite people into conversations. Plus, using other speakers’ stories gives you the chance to hit on mutual interest points. This allows you to segue into talking about how you may offer something of interest too.
Bonus Tip – The Three Questions
Heather concludes her speech by talking about the three questions you can ask to start the conversation.
She boils them down to the following:
What do you do? This is the standard conversation starter. It’s the two questions afterwards that will help you spark a proper conversation.
What’s happening right now? That’s where introducing yourself before and after watching another influencer comes in. That speaker’s story gives your conversation a great starting point.
What’s happening next? Talk about the other influencers you want to see and mention that you’ll be on stage later too.
The Final Word
These three techniques will help you to turn your next speaking engagement into a networking opportunity.
Offer handouts to complement the story you show on stage. This will reinforce your message and give people something to refer back to.
Show up early so you can start conversations, drum up interest, and meet sponsors.
And finally, use Heather White’s four cues to get past the awkwardness of talking to random strangers. Heather’s advice is especially useful at large conferences where people see several influencers over the course of a weekend.
Of course, there’s plenty more that you can do to network. And Speakers Institute is here to help. We encourage you to do the following:
Head to the GREENROOM. The #1OnlineHub connecting you to the world’s leading Influencers, Training and Curriculum.
Join SPEAKERS TRIBE CONFERENCE. The Ultimate Annual event for Influencers globally. (Apply to Speak)
Attend MASTERING STORYSHOWING FOR INFLUENCE AND AUTHORITY. This is a free event where you learn from 7 times International Best Seller and Professional Storyteller, Sam Cawthorn, about his secrets and techniques.