I attend a fair amount of networking events every month. As an entrepreneur providing expertise, doing it (mostly) on my own, I get most of my new business leads through referrals. So going to 7 to 10 gatherings per month to meet other entrepreneurs – some of whom turn into clients while others turn into strategic business partners or friends – is not uncommon. This ensures that I have a reliable and robust network of people I can build connections with because it is essential to the future of my business.
Please Stand Up And Give Your Commercial
There are some common elements to all of these networking meetings. Whether it’s local chamber luncheons, my weekly referral group, or other networking events, you will inevitably be asked to stand and talk about what you do. And you will only have 20 to 60 seconds to do it in. Some groups call it your commercial; others call it a presentation or tell you to give your elevator pitch. But as you go to more meetings, and start seeing some of the same people, you realize you can’t just say the same thing over and over. First off, that’s boring. Second, giving your elevator pitch over and over doesn’t really position you as an expert at what you do. You’ll just sound like a parrot repeating the same thing, and people will wonder if you actually have anything of value to provide. Your commercial needs to compel someone to want to talk to you after the event is over.
When I started out on my own again a little over four years ago, I struggled with this. I was having difficulty getting up every week and talking about what I do because there is so much I could talk about. In addition to not being able to pick a topic, I struggled with only talking about it for 30 seconds. How challenging is it? Give it a try for yourself. Set a timer for 30 seconds and do the following:
1. Introduce yourself
2. Talk about what you do
3. Ask for a referral to someone specific who might need what you do
4. Close with a memorable statement (or tagline, as it seems so many networking groups have an affinity for).
Chances are that if you have never done this before, you ran out of time while still introducing yourself.
Talking about yourself is harder than you think.
Like the blacksmiths home that has wooden spoons or the Cobbler whose children have no shoes, I help other people communicate their brand’s value for a living. Yet, I couldn’t do it for myself. It took me longer than I’m comfortable to admit how to describe what I do and whom I do it for succinctly. I’m used to being in front of a classroom and lecturing for an hour or two. So being limited to just a minute or less, was a challenge. Eventually, I had my introduction and tagline (the beginning and end) down, but I still needed to figure out what to talk about in the 15 to 20 seconds in between those two never-changing statements.
Over time, giving these commercials has gotten easier. I can attribute part of this to merely getting comfortable with the act of just standing and talking about myself. The other part can be attributed to how I’m better prepared to give these commercials due to writing. And by writing, I specifically mean my own content marketing…yes, my blog.
Talk – And Write – About What You Know
About a year ago, my commercials were starting to become more fluid. I realized this was due to talking about topics I have already written about. Each week I think about what I want to talk about (typically a service I provide, its benefits, and who I think could benefit from them) and start to draft my short commercial. Yes, I write these. The key to being successful at this is to be prepared. Because I had gotten the words out of my head and into an article already, I was ready to articulate the ideas quickly, because my subconscious recalled the words I had previously used in long-form writing.
And that’s when it hit me: I already talk about what I do in my blog, demonstrating my subject matter expertise, which is what I do (my services) for my clients. So why not take something I have already written, and just talk about that in my networking commercials? All I needed to do was edit it down to the bite-sized concepts. Rather than standing up and giving what amounts to a short sales pitch – I’m just talking about what I know.
It Starts With My Commercial
About four months ago, I started a new approach to all of this. While I could continue to pick from my existing content and adapt it to a commercial, I instead start with the commercial in mind. I have a running list of topic ideas that I might want to present to my networking groups in my commercials, which are typically pain points of clients or brand and marketing concepts that I want to educate people about.
I start with that topic and write about it as a blog. Once it’s done and posted, I will then write four to five versions of a commercial using that blog piece as a theme, often using exact keywords and phrases from the text. Then I use each weekly commercial to build on what I talked about the previous week. This gives me a monthly theme, with several ways to talk about it.
What are the benefits of this approach? I’ve got plenty of ideas for my blog, and a series of commercials that are ready to use.
Plus, my commercials come off much more polished and effortless than ever, and I don’t have to read them off of my phone. I just stand up and talk, even improvising to make it relate to something someone else said in their commercial or a conversation I had during open networking.
There has been one additional benefit that has come from doing all of this writing: I can talk about what I do much more efficiently and effectively than ever before, in any situation.