Recently I heard a speaker I had heard before. My inner question: Could he be as captivating as when I listened to him previously? To my amazement, yes he was.

--Spoke without notes
--Used subtle, tasteful humor occasionally
--Seemed to carry on a conversation with the group
--Moved and gestured gracefully
--Changed expressions with the skill of an actor
--Followed a clear organizational pattern

As much as I enjoyed his talk, disappointment soon followed. Meeting with him afterward, I felt he was not interested in chatting. The warmth and vitality I had seen just minutes ago had disappeared. My sense was that our conversation was delaying his lunch.

The experience reminded me that the speaker really sends three messages--before, during, and after the speech. Those before and after messages must give the same impression as the spoken words convey, or the speech itself will lose impact.

Also, I remembered hearing a United States presidential candidate when he spoke to my civic club. He arrived with his tight-lipped entourage at the last minute, walked pompously to the podium when he was introduced, and left the room less than a minute after the final round of applause, stating that he had a tight schedule that day. Not surprisingly, I have forgotten what he said during the half hour he spoke.

For a how-to-do-it-right example: Several years ago I enjoyed the privilege of hosting renowned broadcaster Charles Kuralt, host of CBS Sunday Morning and other award winning shows. He had accepted our invitation to keynote a hospital fundraising event. Kuralt arrived at least an hour early, greeted people energetically as they entered the building, and chatted with anyone who wanted his time. He repeated his friendly openness in the reception following the event. Additionally, though his contract did not include socializing afterward, he joined the meeting planners at a local restaurant and talked with them informally for a couple of hours.

You have seen this happen. While the speaker sits on a stage and waits her time to speak, she pays little attention to the earlier speakers. Maybe she reviews her notes or looks at the audience. At worst, she starts talking with the person next to her. Definitely, when her turn comes to speak, her second message will not achieve the effectiveness she wanted.

Speakers with good manners show respect for the audience and for those who precede them at the podium. In essence, they set an attention level the audience should emulate. They smile, applaud, laugh, chuckle, and give constant eye contact.

So remain keenly aware that you are sending messages from the minute you enter the building until you drive away after shaking hands with the last audience member who sticks around to talk with you. A consultant friend of mine offered advice that is appropriate here: “Be present when you show up.”

Author's Bio: 

Bill Lampton, Ph.D., helps companies identify and solve their major communication problems. He helps leaders learn to speak with "poise, power, and persuasion." Additionally, he teaches iPad owners how to produce top-quality, cost effective videos. His client list includes Gillette, Duracell, Procter and Gamble, Ritz-Carlton Cancun, British Columbia Legal Management Association, and Celebrity Cruises. His motto: "Helping You Finish in First Place!"