Do you know how to ‘wow’ listeners within sixty seconds? That is all you have when introducing our business to someone new, be it in the proverbial elevator, a networking meeting, or anywhere else. It is such a short time, yet long enough to ramble on without getting your point across.
Toastmasters clubs offer a good place to practice and improve not only what you say but how you say it. As an international not-for-profit organisation they have chapters across the Greater Toronto Area (www.toastmasters.org) and provide a safe and supportive environment to take your public speaking skills from ho-hum to wow!
The hands-on approach of Toastmasters meetings means no teacher lectures you; instead, members evaluate each other`s presentations and provide constructive feedback. For example, you may not notice how often you use filler words, for example, um, er, ah, or the North-American favourite “like”. Initially this knowledge may make you self-conscious while presenting, yet over time you will improve and reduce your use of filler words.
Body language is important, even more so if you are the main presenter at a meeting or workshop. John, the VP Education at Beaches Speeches, advises to “claim your space”, meaning watch what you do with your arms and body within your personal space, at a lectern, or even on stage. Control your movements but do not become as stiff as a tree trunk, just limit moves and gestures to emphasize your strongest points.
You have sixty seconds – make them count! Speaking fast lets you fit in more words but reduces the quality of your delivery and is harder for people to understand and process, therefore short pauses are your friend.
Short and sweet does the trick. Your elevator pitch should contain just a highlight of your business services or products. Give the listener a glimpse into what you do or offer, a little tease, leaving them wanting more. Resist temptation to give a sales pitch; rather tell your audience what you can do for them by explaining a problem that you have a solution for.
Include a call for action or next step. Do you want your audience to come and look at, try out, taste, or think about something you can provide? Or are you raising funds for a special event? Tell your audience what you want them to do next. And practice, practice, practice. Say it out loud – to yourself, a friend, colleague, or record yourself and listen back. Did you include the important points your want to get across? Was it within sixty seconds?
You can see more details in 6 Tips for Perfecting Your Elevator Pitch (www.entrepreneur.com/article/228070) or join your nearest Toastmasters chapter.
The important thing is that you get out there and just do it! After all, practice makes perfect and attending networking meetings on a regular basis is the best place for honing your speaking skills.
Martina Rowley is the founder and operator of Beach Business Hub – THE co-working space east of the Don Valley. She combined her passion and experience in the environmental sector with her community engagement side to create a local work environment where space and resources are shared. She fosters and facilitates collaboration, networking, and learning for and with small business owners and new start-ups. Contact her at:http://www.beachbusinesshub.ca, on Facebook and on Twitter