I love attending various training events that include diverse keynote speakers who share their expertise and passion with the attendees. I’m like a sponge, soaking up the information they share, assimilating what I’ve heard and thinking of how I can apply it to my own life or business. I’m often madly writing notes as I let their words inspire my own creativity and leave these events with new ideas or refreshed ways of looking at challenging situations.
One of the most invaluable aspects of these training events is the Q&A that happens during the talk or directly after if you can snag some face time with the speaker. Something to keep in mind as you throw your hand in the air or make a bee-line to talk to the speaker is that there is a certain social etiquette in which to adhere.
For example, have you ever been to an event where someone gets reeeeally personal when asking questions in front of the entire audience? Or perhaps someone asks such a specific or off-topic question that the rest of the audience is completely lost. Recently I was standing with a group of people waiting to talk to a speaker and one of
the attendees was monopolizing his time. The attendee’s questions were valid and important, and this speaker most definitely had the information she was seeking. Still, this would have been a conversation better held in a private appointment after the event. As we might say when fighting with a sibling over the TV remote, this attendee was “hogging” the speaker’s time and attention, and not “sharing” him with the rest of the guests.
Below are a four quick Do’s and Don’ts to keep in mind when engaging with guest speakers at special events so that you can make a memorable impression with the speaker, get the information you need, and still allow others to have their face-to-face time too.
1. Don’t hog the speaker's time. Introduce yourself to the speaker and thank them for their presentation. Tell them what they said that resonated with you the most and why (coles notes please!). Ask one or two questions and keep them brief, to the point, and general. If you would like to talk with the speaker at length or work with them on a personal and specific level let them know you will contact them after the event to set up an appointment. Then excuse yourself, let others have their turn, and mix and mingle with the other attendees in the room.
2. Do let speakers connect with others. It can be easy and natural to fall into a deep and meaningful conversation with some guest speakers, especially if you connect on similar experiences or philosophies. However, keep in mind that the speaker will also benefit from talking with others at the event, and there may be people he or she would love to talk to but is reluctant to abandon your conversation. At times it can be challenging or awkward for the guest speaker to end a conversation pre-emptively and this is where your awareness and consideration can be brought into play. Again, don’t get too personal when first talking with the speaker. Communicate that you have shared experiences and philosophies and would like to connect outside of this event. Thank them for their time and give them the space to connect with others in the room while you do the same.
3. Don’t ask more than one question during Q&A’s. The question and answer portion of any event is a great time to get clarity on an earlier point the speaker made or ask them to go more in depth on something that intrigued you. This is not the time to ask personal or off-topic questions. Questions of a personal and specific nature are better asked in a private appointment or conversation with the speaker. Keep your question brief and to the point. Unless you need further clarification on your original question, allow the next person to jump in with their question and save any follow up points for later.
4. Do hire and work with speakers. Did the speaker’s words make the hair on the back of your neck stand up? Did he or she tap into your creativity, awaken your mind and start a flood of ideas? This is a good sign that you may benefit from working with them! There are so many talented, experienced, and effective professionals on the speaking circuit who dedicate their lives to becoming the best at what they do so that they can teach others to be their best selves. If you liked what you heard and think you will benefit from working together, by all means book an appointment! Investing in yourself and your future by working with supportive, talented, and experienced professionals will pay dividends for a lifetime, not to mention speed up and improve the journey towards your own goals.
Grab a friend, head out to some local events featuring guest speakers and panels and connect with other likeminded people. You’ll learn a ton, get the creative juices flowing, grow your network and perhaps meet the next professional who will change your life forever.