THE BLOG
10/28/2016 05:57 pm ET Updated Oct 29, 2017

Grow a Robust E-List From Public Speaking and Create "Business Friendships"

Public speaking has long been considered a potent business development vehicle, a chance for people to meet and get to know you and your expertise. Who knows who might be in your audience that's a perfect fit for what you have to sell?

Yet how many speakers put on a terrific show, winning over an enthusiastic audience, in effect initiating potentially awesome business relationships and prospective customers, then throw all that away by not bothering to ask for business cards or email addresses? Humphrey Bogart remarked to Claude Rains at the end of Casablanca that, "Louie, this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship." So could every speaking gig! Yet 99% of speakers fail to recognize it.

What do savvy business speakers do? They rightly view their audiences as goldmines, raffling off book or free dinner coupon or a free consultation. Or they just ask! But one way or another, they collect their audience's email addresses.

Personally, I find it works great to simply be up front about things before you begin and say, "Before we get started, would everyone please pass their business cards my way, please?" Suggest folks in rows or at tables to just move the cards toward you, adding, "I want to do something special with them. Does anyone know what that might be?"

At that point, someone invariably yells out, only half-jokingly: "You're going to send us a lot of emails!"

Following a bit of laughter, I respond: "Well, kind of, yes! Actually, I'm going to put you on my e-list so we can stay in touch. And I'd like you to do the same with me. That way our time today will be the start of a beautiful business relationship," typically attributing that last line to Bogie's remark to Louie.

Despite the rise of social media, studies still declare email as the most used online communication technique. After all, each and every one of us checks our email at least once if not multiple times a given day, including weekends. Twitter and LinkedIn? Not so much. Thus building an active, robust email list, still reigns supreme as the best way to go... by far.

Once you've learned to consistently grab all the business cards you can from your audiences, how else can you steadily build up your e-list? Here are a few pointers:

Trade cards when networking
This may seem obvious but often the best of us forget to ask for (or offer) a business card at the conclusion of even a particularly fine networking conversation. So get in the habit of asking every time, adding, "Let's put each other on our e-lists and social media."

Follow up!
The very next day, follow this exchange with an email script like: "Hi John: Great meeting you yesterday at Business Forum. I look forward to seeing you there again! Meanwhile let's be officially connected via our e-lists and social media. Hope to see you soon!" No one ever objects to this, by the way, as everyone in business realizes it's our lifeblood to stay connected.

Create practical, educational content for your eblasts
Don't use your weekly or monthly eblasts to merely advertise your products or services. Instead, offer helpful content such as one of your published articles, or news of an upcoming free webinar you'll be giving, a speaking engagement people can attend etc. Give your subscribers useful info, not a shameless plug for their money.

Place an e-list sign-up box on multiple pages of your website
Don't hide your website's e-list sign-up box ... or forget to have one altogether! And don't burden potential new subscribers with lots of information fields for them to fill out, else they get frustrated with you and give up. Just email, name, company name and how they heard of you is quite enough. And offer people an incentive to sign up by gifting them a free white paper or condensed e-version of your book (my particular offer) and free podcast etc. Basically you are thanking people for hooking up with you.

Finally, here's a thing not to do: Never buy or rent an e-list. The kind of email list I'm advocating here should be a permission-based collection. That way everyone on your list will know you in one form or another, either via one-on-one exchange or as a member of one of your audiences or they heard you on the radio, and so forth.

Observing this last rule, your business connections will deepen over time and solidified on mutual trust. With every business-friendly eblast you send, you'll encourage both rising profits and ongoing product promotion, attracting dynamic new customers to come your way of their own volition.

In the end, you'll have effectively transformed your speaking audiences into veritable client "armies" wielding unbeatable word-of-mouth referral systems. You'll be inspiring ongoing healthy profit margins due to lasting, fulfilling and win-win-win "beautiful friendships."