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How to conquer your nerves when pitching your business to a networking group

Face to face business networking works, it always has.  The more you do it the better you’ll become.  Your personal network of business connections will grow, you’ll meet new people and you’ve given yourself the chance to benefit from referrals and introductions.

BUT … the biggest fear most ‘normal people’ have is standing up and pitching their business to the room for 40-60 seconds.  It’s not actually very long but people have been known to verbally collapse and end up in a cold sweat in the heat of the moment and there are plenty of business owners who simply don’t want to face doing it at all.

Fear of public speaking (also known as glossophobia) is an understandable concern; you might feel that you’re being judged.  The truth is, most people feel nervous when they’re not used to pitching their business so what can you do to calm the nerves and become a more confident speaker?  Here are some top tips:

1. Preparation

If you’ve taken the plunge and have booked in to visit a networking meeting then make sure you’re prepared.  You probably know that you get an allotted time to present but if this is your first time, it’s probably better that you simply aim for 30 seconds to allow you ‘spare’.

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You should definitely decide what you’re going to say long before the meeting … ideally having practised many times so that you are comfortable with what you are going to say. Write it out on a computer, use a large font and time yourself speaking calmly and evenly to make sure you’re not trying to cram too much in. If you can’t cope with an actual script, use prompt cards, bullet points or some other method to ensure your brain doesn’t empty the second you stand up!

2. KISS

Keep it simple, stupid!  This is essential – both for you but also for everyone else at the networking event … remember, they don’t know you or what you do.  Use your name and your business name at the beginning and at the end, explain what service or product you provide and, ideally, the core benefit or ‘Point of Difference’ you offer (Unique Selling Point).

In truth, this is normally enough for a 30-second presentation.  If you feel confident, perhaps add in a very short testimonial from a recent client as this adds credibility to your presentation.

In truth, keeping it simple will actually help your pitch come across as knowledgeable, calm and professional so take it easy!

3. Practice

Mentioned in point 1 above, practice, practice and practice! Pitching is simply a learnable skill that takes time to become confident at.  The people in the room that come across as if they were born to do this have almost certainly practised thousands of times – sure they may have a natural comfort in pitching but this isn’t enough – practice makes perfect.

Practice with a stopwatch (all smartphones can provide this now!), practice in front of a mirror, practice in the car, practice in front of the cat, etc.  Remember that when you do practice (and when it’s possible) always stand up, stand tall, put your shoulders back, take a deep breath and smile – these all help you project your voice and persuade your mind that you’re in charge.

Think also about how you present yourself physically – again, using a mirror or a video recording, take a look at your posture, your hands, your body language.  Get used to hearing and seeing your presentation.

4. Use Props!

Using a prop that relates to your business is a clever way of helping you to explain what you do and will help the other businesses in the room remember you as visual information goes in much more than auditory.  You can be literal with a prop (i.e. an electrical contractor can bring a 3 pin plug) or more creative (i.e. the same electrical contractor could bring a broom to explain how he always sweeps and tidies after a job … even more obscure, they could bring a bucket of water and explain the dangers of mixing this with their day job?).  Humorous props can be a great ice breaker.

Props also come with an added benefit … if you’re using a prop, most of the people in the room will be looking at the prop rather than looking at you, they lead the eye away and this allows you to relax more!

5. Don’ts!

Here are some simple things to avoid – all for obvious reasons:

  • Don’t chew gum or eat while presenting.
  • Don’t rush … breath, pause, relax!  Remember, you’ve practised and you’re keeping it simple!
  • Don’t use technology (it almost always goes wrong at exactly the wrong moment!)
  • Don’t put your hands in your pockets to play with keys, coins or anything else within reach (gents!)
  • Don’t stare at one person, look around whilst you’re pitching.  One technique is to not actually look at people’s eyes but to look at their ‘forehead area’ as you look around – the audience feel that you’ve looked at them, you’ve not got locked into a death stare with someone!
  • Don’t panic … remember, in truth, everyone in the room is actually interested to find out about you and almost all ‘proper’ networkers are supportive, helpful and generous … so relax, you’re amongst friends!

Pitching your business can become second nature with time.  Remember to watch the other presentations to start absorbing ideas you could bring into your own pitch … the more you hear and the more you practice the more comfortable you’ll become.

Straight talking advice on pitching from Yorkshire Powerhouse

Now you’ve read our article on pitching your business – have you any more questions?

Here at Yorkshire Powerhouse, we’re happy to help as much as possible – is there anything else we can do to help you, do you have any further questions or can we help introduce you to an expert – please let us know:

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