How to improve my speaking skills during networking events?
As we all know, networking is an important part of a startup's life. I find myself increasingly being nervous, and end up stuttering all the time. What are some tips on how to improve on my speaking skills during networking events?
Hi Ling, a great question! and one we all need to ask.
Of course the obvious is the highly covered elevator pitch, no longer than 30 words and designed to invite questions from the person we meet.
In my opinion and more importantly - Essentially we are wired to be attracted to others that are able to assist us on our journey. This occurs both within our awareness and also sub consciously. The difference maker is, does the other person we meet believe or see that we have something to offer? If we personally know that we do and we are at ease with this, engagement is natural and there is an instant attraction.
A useful exercise is to list 100 things we can offer the next few people we meet at networking functions. Once you are at ease with this then everything else will flow. By the way 50 is not enough, it really needs to be 100 or more.
Let me know how you go, if you decide to try it. Great question!
Ling, if it's the introduction part you're struggling with, I endorse Steve's advice to ask a question first. Get the other person to open up a little before you jump in with your "carefully crafted, word -perfect, self-serving" elevator pitch, guaranteed to leave the impression of a sleazy salesperson.
Be aware the other person is often just as nervous as you are. Remember, you don't have to always be selling. Listen for points of common interest, or concerns you might be able to help with. It's a conversation, not a competition. I've got a couple of good "elevator" templates if you need them.
If however, it's a lengthier talk you're giving, say anything from 3 – 10 mins or more, the structure I use has never failed me. It's a well-known system called: Tell 'em, tell 'em, tell 'em.
Tell 'em what you're going to tell 'em; then tell 'em; then tell 'em again what you just told 'em.
Sounds silly? Not really. It's the Rule of Three. If you haven't heard of it before, it's an intriguing and highly effective use of sequenced triggers to ensure a memorable presentation. And rather than go into detail here, I'll write an article if you're interested.
Steve Bryant ,
Industry leadership at QMI Solutions
I agree with Leo. I would also always assume that the person you are talking to knows nothing about your industry or your company. How would you put it into terms or an analogy they can understand? eg we use the analogy that we are the AIS (Australian Institute for Sport) for industry - everything we do, helps industry be globally competitive. Give them something they can relate to and remember.
Also if you are nervous, you can ask them to tell you about their business first and look for commonalities, so you can break the ice and relax a little more.
I hope this helps.
Jef Lippiatt ,
Owner at Startup Chucktown
I agree that there are some helpful answers above, but I felt the need to add to them.
Consider several things:
- You are already at the same networking event (already have common ground)
- Ask them what brought them to the event
- Ask/Mention something a speaker mentioned at the event
As noted on the pitch, practicing your pitch helps you understand it (and that is great). But keep in mind your pitch is likely to get questions. Think about what questions might be asked by the other party. This can help you prepare by having answers for their questions instead of just restating your pitch.
Have multiple versions of your pitch. I keep several versions in mind and base which one I use off the time cues I receive from the other person. I tend to believe that having a pitch between 3-5 minutes is great when already in conversation. I have a 2-3 paragraph pitch ready for short walks and brief conversations. I also have a 1 sentence version, structured to specifically and clearly state what my startup is about and why it's interesting (granted 1 sentence pitch takes a lot of time to craft well).
Another suggestion I would have is don't approach trying to sell, approach just to start a normal conversation and see where it goes (they may not be a person you want to pitch, so don't waste time or energy if it isn't a good fit).
Also, improv classes can be a big boost. Improv will help you learn how to react and act immediately. Getting comfortable with yourself is half of the battle. By putting yourself in a variety of situations you can get better at thinking on your feet and adjusting your conversation and pitch as necessary.
One last point, is attention. Don't be so focused on pitching that you steamroll the other person. When they are asking questions focus on their question, not on your answer. When they are talking, listen to them carefully instead of waiting to respond. You want people to be engaged and present when you speak to them so be gracious enough to return the respect.
Richard Schembri ,
Entrepreneur - Team Coach and Mentor in Network Marketing at Team Berrygood
Hello Ling, Some very good advice from the answers above already. I'd like to add that my profession offers some great Personal Development programs, and these will help you with talking to prospects and the public in general. I have seen many people change dramatically with some of the training we do.
We are Sydney based team of professionals and offer free personal development and training events that may be of help to you. Let me know if interested and I can point you our next training?
Best of luck!