Gene Perret

Don’t neglect your post-speech manners.

You’ve just delivered a magnificent speech. The audience welcomed you warmly, listened attentively, laughed in all the right places at all the right things, and highlighted their approval with loud, sustained and enthusiastic applause. You were a smash … but your work is not yet done.

After such a successful presentation, people will want to meet you, shake your hand and have a picture taken with you. Perhaps they may ask for your autograph. Some will simply want to tell you how much they appreciated your talk. You may have stepped down from the podium, but the bright, white spotlight is still focused on you. Greeting and acknowledging these people can be as much a part of your presentation as the speech itself — you’re giving a kind of post-show “performance.”

You were personable, considerate and dignified while at the microphone, so people will expect to meet and chat with the same person they listened to and applauded. You must now be appealing as a conversationalist.

Faulty post-performance behavior can nullify a spectacular presentation. A musician friend of mine told me a story that illustrates this point.

Musicians in the Los Angeles area were raving about a new drummer on the scene. Because of all the scuttlebutt about his talent, several musicians went to see him perform at a local nightclub. My friend, who was himself a well-known drummer, said, “This guy’s playing was great. He was solid technically, yet he was also creative and innovative. All of us thought he was fantastic.” However, there’s more to the story.

My friend said, “During the band’s break, this young drummer came over to say hello to us and turned out to be a real jerk.” He added, “When he played the second set, we all agreed that his left hand wasn’t that great.”

The talented musician went from “fantastic” to “a drummer with a weak left hand.”

Create Positive P.R.

Extending your positive presentation qualities into the after-show is simply good public relations and savvy business. Many of the people you speak with either decide, or help decide, if and when you will be brought back for a repeat performance. They may also be instrumental in recommending you to other groups. It’s to your benefit to keep them as enchanted with your off-stage self as they were with your public speaking abilities.

One of the secrets of maintaining your charm is in knowing how to accept praise graciously. Here are a few tips:

If people tell you that your lecture was brilliant, agree with them. That may sound a little self-indulgent and egotistical, but it isn’t. It might be boastful to elaborate on their compliments, but it’s not if you sincerely and humbly accept them.

Some speakers might feel it is more modest to disagree and may say, “Oh no, I thought my talk could have been much better,” “I really didn’t feel I gave it my best this evening” or “I felt there were many moments when I could have been sharper.”

In a sense, it borders on rudeness to contradict the praise. These audience members are sincerely telling you that in their opinion your efforts were superb. You might appear arrogant telling them they were wrong. Allow them their point of view and accept it.

Keep your acceptance short, simple and dignified. I once asked a major celebrity how he dealt with all the adulation he received. He said, “You can never go wrong with ‘thank you.’” You can add other phrases so that your response doesn’t appear repetitious or insincere. “It’s very nice of you to say that.” “I’m glad you enjoyed it.” “Thank you for being here.” Anything that helps you accept the praise courteously and sincerely serves your purpose. Notice, though, as my celebrity friend pointed out, such phrases are all variations on the simple “thank you.”

Sincerity is a major factor in accepting praise. Each person you meet is offering you kudos sincerely; it’s imperative that you accept the compliments in the same manner. Give each person his or her moment. I once had a meeting with a celebrity who was constantly receiving phone calls from notable people: entertainment figures, athletes, politicians and the like. At the beginning of our meeting, he told his secretary, “Unless it’s the president of the United States, hold all my calls. I’m in a meeting with Gene right now.” Can you imagine how proud and important I felt hearing that?

Make eye contact with each person and listen to what they say to you. Respond to that one person before you move on to someone else. It’s insulting to speak with one person while you’re glancing around the room for someone more important to talk to. It’s rude to sign an autograph for a person and hand it back without even acknowledging them. If you take a moment to appreciate each person who compliments you, that person will feel appreciated.

Try to adopt that “hold all my calls” attitude when chatting with admirers after a talk. It’s a win-win technique: It makes each individual feel important, and it makes you look important in their eyes.

It is certainly gratifying for a speaker to give an outstanding performance. It’s thrilling to feel that outpouring of admiration from a grateful audience. Return that warm feeling with the graciousness of your “post-show” performance.