Thursday, 13 December 2018

Taking the terror out of your 60 seconds at networking meetings

If you go to business networking events, you have probably had the experience of being invited to speak for 60 seconds - an 'elevator pitch' about what you do and how you can help.

Is it something you relish or does it feel like a cruel form of torture designed to make you miserable?

So, WHY do so many networking groups think it's an important part of the meeting format?

A 60-second introduction is an opportunity to educate people in the room about what you do, how you help others and how THEY can help YOU. But you should bear in mind that you are not just targeting the people in that room on that day; you also want to reach the people and businesses they know. That means you are going to have to put some thought into making every word count so that your message is memorable, relevant and useful.

If you are new to this, I promise you that the more '60 seconds' you do the easier it gets – honestly.

There are two aspects to a 60-second introduction: one is what you say and the second is the way you say it.

Studies have shown that body language and tone of voice add up to a whopping 93% of the impact you have on your audience while the actual words you are saying is only 7%.

Now, in my personal opinion, when you have just 60 seconds to speak at a busy networking meeting, the impact of body language is probably going to be less than that percentage indicates. I often find that when I look round the room as I deliver a 60-second pitch, many people have their heads down writing and aren't looking at me. Hopefully, they are noting down something I am saying. If they are slow writers they might still be writing down what the person before me said and if I’m not holding their attention enough they may just be writing out a shopping list!

What I would say about body language is that you need to stand tall, avoid fidgeting and look confident. Fake that confidence, if necessary, until you make it. Be proud of your business and be proud of yourself. It’s OK to be nervous. It’s most important to be ‘you’. Networking is about developing relationships, so smile, be honest and be friendly.

My next tip is, relax. When you stand up to speak take a breath in and let your shoulders fall. If your head and neck are tense it will affect your voice and your delivery.

Varying the pitch and pace at which you speak can hold people's attention. Brace yourself and record your 60 seconds on your phone. Be honest with yourself; do you have a monotone voice? Can you inject more energy and animation into your pitch? Try a few different styles and record them and find something that sounds engaging but is still ‘you’. 

I think it’s absolutely fine to read your 60 seconds. As you grow in confidence – and when you have time to practice more – you can commit more of your words to memory and look around the room to make eye contact with people who ARE looking at you.

So, what about tips for writing out those words that you are going to speak?

You are trying to make people want to buy what you sell or introduce you to someone else who will, so you need to cover:
  •         What you do
  •         What makes you different
  •         Who you want to work with and how they will benefit from working with you.
A traditional structure would be:
  • Your name, company name, who you work with and what they buy from you.
  • Next comes the section that will hopefully make people sit up and take notice: It could be a quick story of how you helped a customer and the results for them or something topical in the news that relates to your business or some news about your business.
  • Tell people how they can help you. This is the call-to-action for people in the room. Is there someone that you would love to meet to offer them your help? Maybe someone in the room knows them.
  • Remind people of your name again and sign off with a tagline or slogan if you have one.
Write it down. Time it. Practice it. I have found that I need to write 150-160 words for a well-paced 60 seconds. If you try to cram in more than that you will probably end up gabbling, which makes it harder for your audience to follow what you are saying.

Don’t beat yourself up if something goes wrong or you trip over your tongue. We all do it. The great thing is that practice really does get us closer to, if not perfection then at least a more relaxed and effective 60 seconds.

If you attend the same networking meeting regularly, then it’s good to vary what you say to stop people being bored or feeling that they don’t need to listen because they know you’ll always say roughly the same thing.

My final tip is, why not ask for feedback from some of the people at your networking meeting? Ask them if they are 100% clear on what you do and how you can help and if they have any suggestions on how you could improve or stories you could tell in future 60 seconds.