“When 60 seconds seems like an eternity”: making a memorable networking pitch

Today I had the opportunity to help the business community where I live. Eastbourne Chamber of Commerce (the largest town chamber in the South East) invited me to give a talk on how to make an effective 60 second pitch / presentation at a networking event.

Unbeknown to the 32 delegates who’d assembled at Bill’s it was to be a journey beyond their comfort zones. I decided to make it an experiential session rather than the usual 10 minute ‘show and tell’ after breakfast.

Here’s the agenda I worked to:

We began by getting everyone to mingle and meet people they’d not previously talked to.  I encouraged them to talk to each other about what they most enjoyed about their job: people open up when they are positive!

 

By the time they sat down (each one with someone new) conversational juices were flowing.

At this point I asked them to consider how they might respond to this question “who are you and what do you do?” Many say, “I am …. the owner / CEO of …. and I employ … people and I’ve been in the town for over 20 years.” 

I noted that it’s not about what you are called more about what you do!

“A Quivering Mess”

Here we talked about what we hated about standing up and telling people about our businesses.  Words and phrases that emerged during the ‘call out’ were: Fear; too quiet; can’t hear; can’t speak; content; not being heard.  We rounded this off with an eloquent description from Samantha Akehurst (“Sam from Audi not Aldi”) of how she used to feel giving a 60 second address.

Creating an impression

And so to the reason we were all there. I asked the Chamber members to put themselves “In the shoes” of the people who’d be listening to them. To focus on:

  • Is it relevant?
  • Is it memorable?
  • The one image or metaphor they wanted people to take away with them.

I shared two images and asked which one was the most powerful call to action:

The majority chose the top image reasoning that it was relevant and in the language of the recipient whereas the bottom image was more about the product and its functionality.

Each person was then invited to give their 60 seconds to their new ‘best friend’. I asked the listener to pay special attention to the key message. I was to discover later how people started by describing who they were and then stopped, remembering my earlier comments.

The moment of truth

All this had been taking place while breakfast was being served / consumed and while I was searching for a suitable ‘talking stick‘ for each presenter to hold and then pass on. I ended up using a pepper grinder.

Over the next 35 minutes we saw a variety of approaches.  Those considered the most memorable had movement, a story, a strapline to conclude and a statistic or quote. Standouts displayed emphasis on emotion, passion and an injection of humour.

Here’s an example of a 60 second story “They’ve done a lot to the property” Ana of Bees Homes told her partner:

Recently we sold a property that had been empty and on the market for 8 months. After a weekend of home staging, taking quality photos and providing a narrative description of the house, a buyer was found within 10 days and completed in 2 months.

Interestingly, the story was relayed back almost word for word illustrating the importance of framing it in words the listener can absorb.  Ana’s ‘partner’ proudly held up a Bees Homes postcard while he was talking and closed with: “And they exceeded the sellers expectations.”

Other memorable examples of opening and closing lines:

Have you ever saved half a billion for your clients? (bespoke software)

If you get locked out call the cavalry (Locksmiths)

Unlike his name you can call him anytime not just at Christmas (on Steve Christmas’ will writing service)

When you are stressed out think Calmer Self (well being)

And finally

I concluded by asking everyone whether they found the exercise of telling someone else’s story easier or harder.  The majority were in the easier camp. Stephen Holt in summing up noted that he had listened more to each story and witnessed some brilliant improvisations.

Hopefully this session will enthuse those who were there to spend a bit more time on the audience and the key message that they wish people to take away.

A ‘newbie’s guide to Tweet Chat hosting (on Knowledge Capture & Retention)

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I first worked in the City in 1972 as a summer intern in the cheque processing arm of Lloyds Bank Ltd.  We used machines that looked something like this. No typing, just machine minding!

15 years later I was sitting in the machine room of the Marriott Hotel in Jeddah faxing, over an encryted line, a confidential trip memo for my secretary to type up and distribute to selected directors.  Laptops were only just appearing on the market and as for typing, Managers in those days didn’t. If you wanted to communicate confidential information quickly it was the fax.

Fast forward to this afternoon and I am about to host my first TweetChat some 44 years on from my first immersion in technology.

Think about it: I can’t see who I’m talking to; I don’t know who’s ‘listening’; I have little idea whether what I am going to ‘say’ will resonate with the audience: and I have to type at lightening speed. It feels like ‘drinking from the fire hydrant’ to boot!

But there are huge advantages: I can reach a global audience without leaving my Home Office; what I say will have a very long ‘tail’; and it forces me to articulate my thoughts in a very concise way to an audience who may not speak English as their 1st language.

I know from many conversations I’ve had recently that everyone is expected to be up to speed with new technologies and few get trained adequately to do so.

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Here, with grateful thanks to Luis Suarez (@elsua), Ana Neves (@SocialNowEvent) and Ana Aguilar-Corney (@aguilarinteriors) who provided the wise words and tips I show below, is how I went about it.

Set up

  • Use http://www.tchat.io/ to handle the chat. Load that on the browser and forget about everything else.
  • Focus on the tweet chat for the entire time, even if it looks like things may be a bit slow with tweets coming through, don’t go elsewhere. That way you are free of interruptions and focused on the chat.
  • Have a look into the questions of the tweet chat ahead of time, and write some potential answers ahead of time that would fit in tweets, within the 140 character limit. That way when the answers come in you just have to copy and paste and focus on what people tweet for potential responses, faves, RTs. etc. etc.
  • As you see tweets coming through, don’t think about responding to them all. Think about peppering out the interactions: some responses, some RTs, some faves, to balance your interactions without demanding you to type too much, so you can focus on the conversations themselves.
  • Enjoy the tweet chat under the notion you won’t be able to read and respond to everything while the chat lasts and that’s just fine! You can always come back at a later time if you feel you’d need to. Enjoy the flow as if you were reading a fast paced news tracker skimming through and stopping where you feel you can and want to contribute.
  • If you are going to refer people to blog posts or articles make sure you condense the URL’s as you ‘cut and paste’ into your Tweets.
  • Establish a live back channel with the facilitator while you are conducting the chat.
  • Be clear about who is performing what role and ensure someone is producing a Storify of the event that can be circulated later.
  • Don’t be afraid to let the virtual ‘silence’ hang.

Conduct

So armed with the above and a set of thoughts for three questions off I went.

And if you are up for reading an account of how it went go to the Storify Account of the discussion which is here

And finally

The hour (the optimum time) flew by. Armed with the checklist above it was plain sailing.  It did however reinforce the veracity of the ratio I use for physical workshops namely 3-4 x times preparation vs. the length of the event. I spent 3 hours on potential answers and it paid off.

Would I do it again? Yes tomorrow provided there is a clear mandate and set of questions to be addressed.

 

A great knowledge capture / engagement technique: the customer worksheet

Today my wife Ana upgraded her phone as her current contract had expired.  Being a born negotiator she always gets a good deal but it’s a long process involving a couple of offers from competing suppliers. That brunch on the seafront was mentioned was sufficient for me to tag along. I’m glad I did. Here’s why.

After a brisk 3.5km along Eastbourne’s seafront to The Beach Deck and the best Eggs Benedict I’ve had in Eastbourne we ended up in town in the phone shops.

We started at EE, Ana’s current provider.  Friendly and welcoming yes but their approach was “tell me something and I’ll fill it onto my system.” He was behind a counter and his computer screen was a barrier as was the counter we were sitting at. Ana had to write down what he was saying and ask for a piece of paper to do so.  And their offer was appalling.

Next up was phones4u a chain of mobile phone shops.  We’ve been there before and I’ve always liked their commercial yet subtle sales process which is underpinned by a knowledge capture worksheet (checklist) KM’ers could learn from when they are conducting interviews.

a checklist that isn’t

It’s clever. Every piece of detail the salesman needs to form an opinion about you is there but the overlapping circles are not at all threatening or official. It mixes informality with the need for capture and here’s the twist, the salesman can choose which question to pose and when depending on his assessment of the person sitting in front of him and their answers to some of the questions.IMG_1760

It has ‘doodle’ space so it feels like a document that is purely for taking notes when actually it is the basis on which their document of record is created.

I asked Andy Waller, an experienced salesman who listens – a huge asset, how it differed from their previous checklist. He said and I paraphrase:

The previous form was sequential and official. It pushed you to ask questions in order. This one allows you to move around at a pace that suits the customer and explore areas that they want to discuss.

why it works

  • Co-created: it feels like a sketch you both create.
  • Informal: it encourages you both to scribble – it doesn’t feel like it’s an official record.
  • Personal: It’s all about u….is the title and that’s how it comes across.
  • Structured flexibility: it’s an interview spine that in the hands of good interviewers (which is what successful sales people are) provides an insight into a prospective clients’ needs against which they can pitch a product.
  • Neutral object: we focus on filling in the worksheet not the system – its a neutral space and so different from the EE approach.

Today reminded me that successfully capturing information and knowledge is very much dependent on the way you go about it. It reinforced the need for good tools and techniques and people well versed in using them and seeing the value in them.  phone4u got Ana’s business today and they’d get mine next time.  As their form says:

It’s all about u…

So with his and my wife’s permission I have shared the experience and the worksheet.