Anyone who has been to a business networking event (usually at breakfast time) in Britain will be familiar with the part where you stand up and introduce yourself, normally for either 40 or 60 seconds, depending on the organisation who runs it.
Some people dread it, others breeze through a predictable boring routine, but few utilise it to its fullest potential.
The network I'm a member of, 4Networking, uses a 40 second introduction round.
Everyone in the room takes their turn to stand up and describe what they do.
The goal is to give the people in the room enough information that they want to use one of their three 10 minute, 1-2-1 appointments with YOU to find out more.
They may want to buy from you, or they may want you to buy from them.
They may be the gatekeeper to the perfect client you've always wanted.
But these appointments are the key to being successful at 4N.
In the past I've been guilty of waffling in my 40 second speech; not giving a great account of myself, mostly because I hadn't prepared properly.
But recently I've been putting a little time into preparing what I am going to say, so that I am ready perform when the moment arises.
I start with a rigid structure... The introduction is always the same, I want it to become my jingle that people remember me by... I talk a lot about memory hooks, and this is a place where you have a prime opportunity to form one.
If you do this well, people will be finishing your closing sentence for you in their minds... Once they've seen it a few times that is.
But the middle part is where the meat is, it's where you offer the variety and intrigue that will make people want to find out more.
Here's a few ideas of things you could talk about:
- A recent testimonial from a happy client
- A new contract or account win... and briefly how it came about
- Some insider knowledge from your industry that could be valuable to the audience (eg. Practical LinkedIn tips if you are a Social Media Manager, or a diet tip if you are a Personal Trainer).
- An interesting story that happened to you, maybe a problem that arose, and how you solved it.
- In fact, any kind of story about your business, as long as it has a happy ending
What you should NOT do though is list every single product or service you offer, as if you were reading directly from a catalogue.
It's early in the morning. People are barely conscious, and the ones who are compos mentis are probably either anxiously awaiting their turn to speak, or are secretly relieved that they've got it out of the way.
You need to work hard to get noticed. You can't just do what everyone else is doing.
This is an example of the last 40 seconds I did, which got people scrambling for an chance to speak to me. Maybe I exaggerate a tad, but it got people coming up to me after the event to ask me about it.
Good morning everyone, I am Super Logo Boy, but most people call me Paddy.
(The introduction immediately disrupts the expected dry format the inevitably gets repeated around the table - get their attention).
I want to tell you a little story...
(Again, we're pre-conditioned to pay attention to stories. As a child it's something we enjoy... And it doesn't feel like we're being sold to).
I was really struggling with a logo last week. So much so that I had to stop working on it.
(This isn't what you'd expect somebody to say, you're building up anticipation now)
The name of the company was really cool. Pause.
So I knew that I had to hit it out of the park with the logo.
(Showing professional pride, taking the job seriously).
Well, last Saturday I was walking round Tesco, buying some beer and milk... You know, the essentials.
When I saw these rubber gloves (reveal a pair of marigolds from jeans pocket) and the idea just hit me.
I knew exactly what I should do. I had to rush home so didn't even manage to pick up any milk (attempt at humour).
Well, for part II of this story, you're going to have to ask me for a 1-2-1... I'll show you the logo too... The client was blown away.
Thanks for listening. I'm Super Logo Boy, also known as Paddy.
It's short and to the point. I tell a story about something I have made and I show people the thought process behind it.
Maybe people are interested in that kind of thing? Maybe nobody there is?
But boring them for 40 seconds about how I can design: posters, leaflets, brochures, catalogues, email newsletters, banners, websites, exhibition stands, vehicle livery etc. etc. probably wasn't going to work either, was it?
If you want to see the logo that I described above, you can find it here.