I’ve had the pleasure of attending a number of networking events recently and I’ve met some wonderful people with great businesses. However, I’ve been surprised and disappointed at the amount of business people who are letting themselves and their business down by their poor pitch. At many networking events you have just 40 to 60 seconds to grab people’s attention and tell them about you and your business; yet the amount of times I’ve heard “Hello, my name is X and my company is Y. We do blah, blah, blah… and we also do blah, blah, blah… and we do a bit of blah, blah, blah…” Yawn. This approach is particularly ineffective when you have the challenge of being the twenty third person in the room to pitch your business and people are struggling to maintain their interest. So, how can you deliver an attention grabbing pitch that makes everyone in the room sit up and take notice whether you are the first or the fiftieth person to speak?
Here are some ideas:
1. Have a hook – what is your attention grabbing opening? How can you get the interest of people that may be eating lunch or preoccupied with their own upcoming pitch? Some great ways to open include asking a question, using a prop, inviting your audience to imagine a scenario, telling an interesting and relevant story, using a quote or sharing a startling, unusual or curious fact or statistic.
2. Keep it snappy – don’t go on and on about every little thing that you do in your business. Give them a hint, intrigue people to find out more; when you finish your pitch they should be desperate to come and speak with you to see how you can help them.
3. Keep to the time limit – if you have 40 seconds, then use just 40 seconds. If you go over your time it is disrespectful to the organisers, the audience and to the other speakers who may have to cut their pitch short to fit in with the schedule of the meeting. The only way to ensure that you keep to the time limit is to practice it and time it. You can speak around 150 words per minute comfortably so keep this in mind when you’re drafting your pitch. Better to be shorter with a clear message and leave them wanting more, than to go over your time.
4. Position yourself effectively – make sure you position yourself in the room so that everyone can see and hear you. If this means moving away from your chair then do so rather than twisting and turning to try to communicate with people beside and behind you.
5. Take a moment – don’t start your pitch while you’re still moving into position or while people are still nattering about the previous pitch. Stand silent for just a moment and engage with your audience using appropriate eye contact before you open you mouth to speak.
6. Speak up and out – make sure you can be heard. Projecting your voice will not only enable people to hear you but will command attention and display confidence in your message.
7. Be passionate – if you don’t exhibit enthusiasm for your business it is unlikely that anyone else will. Use variety in your voice and enhance your message with body language that conveys your passion.
8. Make it about them – people want to know how you can help them so the more you can talk about their problems and how you will solve them, the more likely that they will want to speak with you after your pitch.
9. Be authentic – it’s so important to be 100% YOU so that people can grow to know and like and trust you. Be genuine and approachable. 10.Smile – people want to like you and they want to work with happy positive people.
And a bonus tip that will help with many of these points is to breathe effectively by breathing deeply into the diaphragm and exhaling slowly and fully. This will ensure you relax, stand tall, support your voice and reduce any nerves you may have.
Try implementing these tips to improve your pitch and notice the response you get. Ask people for feedback so that you can continue to improve each time you deliver it.
Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction.
Mel's book 'The Authority Guide to Pitching Your Business - how to make an impact and be remembered... in under a minute!' is available on Amazon. To find out more go to www.melsherwood.com or follow Mel on Twitter @MelSherwood_