How freelancers should speak when spoken to

How often do you attend a meeting, an event or a conference and the following scenario happens? Someone asks a question or requests some information and they don’t give you - the audience - their details.

As freelancers are more often than not the ones being quizzed, the good news is that this common problem of how to respond when addressed or asked a question can be overcome so your audience isn’t disappointed, writes Kay White (pictured on the front-page), founder of Way Forward Solutions, a communication advisory for women in business.

Three-tier intro

When it comes to showing up at a networking event or an external meeting, never underestimate the power of this simple strategy: Say your full name, your company/the business you represent, and where you’re from.

Obvious when you read it? Yes. A waste of opportunity when you don’t do it? Definitely!

Your moment of influence

Unfortunately, people on the floor on the receiving end of a question think "let me just rattle off what I want to ask and then keep quiet again." Well, I’m all for keeping things brief and to the point and, I’m also all for leveraging moments of influence.

When you speak up, when you ask a question or offer information, you have a moment of influence – a moment where yours is the only voice sharing or asking and everyone else is listening. You can assume so anyway.

So, why is it that so few of us actually position ourselves when we go to speak? I’ve lost count of how many times a really good question was asked and no one had a clue what the responder’s name, title, or company was. If the facilitator doesn’t invite the responder to say who they are, then they’ve lost a valuable moment for follow up and personal profiling.

Three types of responses to probably avoid

It often goes like this when the floor is open to questions:

  • ‘Hi, I work for ABC Ltd and I want to know …’ (company name is provided but no personal name or information follows, just a question)
  • ‘Thanks, it’s great to be here today. I’m interested in the main reason why …'(no company or personal name and no personal profile, just a question)
  • ‘Hi, I’m familiar with ABC and think X is an issue. Do you have this experience, or disagree or guess this will change?’ (No name, no company information and a lack of a specific personal profile. Also, multiple questioning risks losing people’s attention – heed my previous advice for encapsulating your main point before you speak out).

Three types of responses to offer

When seconds away from introducing yourself because you’ve been addressed or posed a question, remember that your response doesn’t have to be akin to you reading your CV out loud! It’s more about owning the moment and who you are assertively and clearly, along these lines:

  • 'Hi, I’m Kay White, Founder of Way Forward Solutions, London.'
  • 'Thanks, I’m Kay White, a communication expert for women in business, London'
  • 'Afternoon everyone. I’m London-based Kay White, author of communication handbook The A to Z of Being Understood.'

Now, when you look at the above you could say ‘Oh my, that’s a lot of information’ or ‘don’t you feel like you’re showing off?’ Well, no I don’t. It’s all true and, you know what, it actually really helps both you and the audience to lean more closely in and be drawn to your question or comment. You’ve positioned yourself and you own what you’re about.

How to really get talking

This is why it’s so important and why you can miss out on opportunities and quick routes to what you want. Three quick observations I’ve actually experienced myself:

  1. If the question wasn’t fully answered, it gives people a way to find you to get in touch.
  2. If, at the networking afterwards, people want to talk to you about your question or comment, they can approach you knowing your name and information.
  3. Who knows who else is noticing who is asking about what?! Those people can find you to discuss further and, hopefully, give you what you want.

To encourage these follow-ups, you should tell everyone in the room that you’re open to being known and in touch and, if you want even more impact in your moment, stand as you ask the question as well – now you’re really talking!

Hear Kay's instant tips for asking for what you want using a simple language model and how to keep going, even after a firm 'No.'

Editor’s Note: Further ReadingHow freelancers can avoid getting stuck


19th May 2013

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