While the skill of hospitality is not essential for public speakers and entrepreneurs, those who master basic hospitable characteristics shine above their peers, get referrals, and collect invitations for future gigs.
A few simple details in behavior and presence help them “make it look easy,” as they prepare for a crowd ready to receive their message.
Think of the last time you had a wonderful meal at the home of a friend or a really good restaurant. Ever notice how a gracious host makes you feel welcome, pampered, and special? A meal at the home of a talented host or hostess, or a 5-star restaurateur, is one of the most memorable and pleasant experiences one can enjoy.
Those who do it well make it seem like an innate gift, but in fact hospitality can be learned with practice.
Hospitality sets the table for a great speech.
According to NYC restaurateur and author Danny Meyer, providing and receiving hospitality is one of the most intense human drives. In his wonderful book, Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business, her writes:
Within moments of being born, most babies find themselves receiving the first four gifts of life: eye contact, a smile, a hug, and some food. ~ Danny Meyer
Now if that doesn’t make your heart skip a beat, you’re probably not cut out for the restaurant business. However, if you are an entrepreneur — even if your business isn’t food related — the business angel tapped you on the shoulder for one reason or another, so this sentence should strike a chord with you, too.
Your customers pay your for your services and products. If you’re also a public speaker (and we all are on some level) your audience also appreciates a memorable experience. Their encounter with you is transformed by your hospitality toward them: before the event, while you’re on stage or presenting at a meeting, and after your speech.
Infuse hospitality into your speech and your business. Your audience’s experience will be transformed.
Much of hospitality centers on presentation and service. I’ll bet you can vividly remember a meal that was so unpleasant you couldn’t wait to get out of there. Whether it was at a restaurant, a picnic, or a person’s home, if your experience was inhospitable then you felt like someone was doing something to you instead of doing something for you. The worst!
Your presentation is “felt” in everything you do. In business and on stage, serving clients, customers, vendors, and especially your audience: requires hospitable manners.
That may not mean white glove service (especially in the BBQ business!) but it does have those four elements Meyer mentions:
Eye contact: Your connection depends on it. Have you ever sat in a presentation where the speaker never bothered to make that connection? Even in the smallest room, the eye contact helps the audience follow your message and creates a dynamic and powerful link. The hands may move, the speaker may walk around, but unless she’s making eye contact, the speech falls flat on its face.
A Smile: If you’re nervous or worried, or if you think you’re just a smidgen better or smarter than your audience, it shows. A smile is the great equalizer, the universal sign of goodwill. One of my favorite personalities, author and speaker Guy Kawasaki, in his book Enchantment, says to smile so your crows feet dig in. Smile so your eyes close, smile like you really mean it. A smile works wonders to dazzle your audience before you even get to the actual content!
A Hug: OK, even if you wanted to, and even if it were required; it’s not possible to actually hug everyone. What IS necessary, though, is to embrace people with your message.
Even if they don’t have the slightest interest in what you’re presenting, your audience will be more receptive to your speech if you roll out that personal touch. Good speakers are prepared. They know ten times more than they actually tell. They spare you from boredom by incorporating stories, specific details, and enthusiasm for their subject.
That’s the speaker’s equivalent of a hug. The audience is practically enveloped in the aura of the speaker’s knowledge and passion.
Some Great Food (aka “Content”): The content you deliver will be remembered better if you practice the above three habits. So make it good! This is what people came for, after all. Unless you’re already that famous that people just come to see you, and even if that’s the case, your content should still be original and full of good, entertaining stories and information.
By the way, have you ever noticed how words and speeches are often perceived in distinctly food-related terms?
- You want your listeners to digest what you’re saying.
- They showed interest by consuming all of your content.
- Your delivery was fresh.
- He had a crisp tone of voice.
- They roasted the guest last week.
- Her words were tough to swallow.
- Chew on this advice.
- Break your speech down down into bite-sized portions.
- He poured on the intensity.
- She has a spicy style.
- His words were raw but effective.
If you spend weeks and months working on your craft, you know that your word choices matter. A hospitable speech is memorable and well prepared, just like the most fabulous dining experience or exquisitely planned event.
Incorporate juicy words and phrases that connect with your audience’s senses. Over time your unique flavor and style will become second nature. (See what I did there?)
Take heart if you are new at this. With every stage appearance, your natural voice emerges, and you will find a cadence and delivery that just feels right.
Every time you speak you get closer to your true element. When you are “on your dime,” (a term used a lot by Speak-to-Sell Mentor Lisa Sasevich) your speech will be fun to give and receive, just like that human desire for hospitality.
Prepare to get out there and wow them!
Your presentation begins long before you step up to the podium. Just like your actual speech, your marketing materials also reflect your style and your professionalism. Copywriting plays a part in your hospitality quotient, too! as Michael (the “Prepaholic) Hyatt cautions, it pays to do this background work. Getting gigs will depend on that same compelling “voice” which will be hinted at in your speech title and speech descriptions.
You’re probably going to deliver these materials long before your speech, by directing the organizer to your online bio page, complete with your background and speech topics. Remember that every web page your publish, every email you write, your hand-written correspondence, your bio/about page, and all your web content is fair game for the planner to make a decision about hiring you.
Your copy reflects the caliber of content you’ll be presenting, and it also shows how prepared you are as a speaker. Get them in ship shape so you’re ready when opportunity strikes.
Follow Through Graciously.
After you speech, your personal, hospitable touch is again necessary. Now the tables are turned. While you owe it to your audience to be hospitable throughout your delivery, now you owe it to your host to thank them and ask for feedback. Top speakers and even 5-star restaurants do this to keep honing their craft and delight future audiences.
Send a thank you note, inquire about how your speech was received, and ask for recommendations about other speaking opportunities.
As you know, it’s a rare speaker who makes his bread and butter through speaking alone. In a lot of cases, the speaking engagement smooths the way for a future sale, if not an actual close at the end of the talk.
Hopefully at some point during your presentation, you’ve given your audience an easy way to get more information or to connect with you in the future. This doesn’t mean just posting your website or email address on your last slide!
Go the extra mile and offer a download of your deck, next steps, or a free ebook, etc. You can even have people text their email addresses or a special code to a designated number so that you can reach out to them again. (This is one time you’ve be glad to see members of your audience playing with their phones!)
Remember that your demeanor and tone, warmth and authority, all set the table for a scrumptious presentation.
Words are the compelling, meaty, content-part in the event organizer’s eyes; but your hospitality skills ensure that your speech makes a favorable, long-lasting impression. Pull out the stops for your next speaking engagement and reap the rewards and appreciation enjoyed by a generous host.
My Team Connects serves small businesses, entrepreneurs, and public speakers with online and direct response copywriting that inspire customers, agents, organizers and audiences. I am delighted to help promote individuals and companies with copywriting as fresh and as passionate as you are!