In a networking meeting, your pitch is your showcase. Just like a shop window, a website, or a billboard, your pitch is where you tell the world about yourself, and they decide whether they want to learn more and engage with you, or just ‘walk on by’. Your pitch is the key to success in networking. Others can’t refer you if they don’t understand what you do, who you help and what you’re looking for.
As you can imagine, I have heard A LOT of pitches over the years, some good, some bad and some downright ugly. I call these last ones ‘Cringy Pitches’, and I’ve got my own personal list ‘top ten’. Here I share them with you, along with the all important tips to avoid them.
1. Forgetting the guests
The hallmark of this style of cringy pitch is ‘You all know what I do’. The speaker talks to the members, rather than guests, appearing very inward looking, the complete opposite of what networking is all about. To avoid this cringe, treat every meeting as if no-one in the room had ever met you before.
2. Same old, same old
Repetition is good – to a degree. Your fellow members will remember important parts of your pitch the more they hear them. But balance this by changing up some parts of your pitch from meeting to meeting. A good tip is to keep your opening and close the same, but vary the middle part of your pitch – tell a customer story, use an analogy. Avoid the ‘cringe by balancing consistency with keeping things Fresh.
3. What do you want?
This cringe is where the speaker doesn’t specify what they’re looking for. Avoid it by always including a ‘call to action’ in your pitch – a clear and concise description of who you’re looking for and what you want your audience to do.
You tell people they each have 60 (or 45 or 30) seconds, but they talk…and talk… and talk… Going over your allocated limit is cringy because it shows a lack of respect for other people’s time. Practice different versions of your pitch for different timings, so you’re never caught out.
5. The ‘no breath’ pitch
I cringe when I hear people try and beat the clock by speaking twice as fast. Twice the speed simply means half the understanding. Avoid this by using fewer words and going at a pace that your audience can follow, with well-timed pauses for emphasis.
6. Don’t read it
There’s nothing wrong with writing out your pitch. In fact, it’s an effective way to get the timing right. But I cringe when someone reads their pitch word for word – it always sounds stilted and artificial. Avoid this cringe by reducing your script down to bullet point prompts, or even better, memorise it.
7. The energy drainer
This is the person who starts their pitch with an audible sigh and a slump of the shoulders. Their lack of energy and enthusiasm drains the whole room. Boost the energy of your pitch with a big smile, a confident voice, relaxed shoulders and direct eye contact. If you’re not feeling confident – fake it until you make it. Keep smiling and one day you’ll find it’s for real. If you’re in a café, always stand up to speak – it changes your attitude, your voice and your energy, to ensure that you stand out for all the right reasons.
8. The menu
This is where the speaker simply recites a ‘menu’ of the services they offer. Avoid this cringe by remembering that people need to understand what problem you solve before they can refer you. If you can’t explain how you help, your fellow members are going to struggle to introduce you to the people who need you.
You only get a minute at the most for your pitch, so don’t spend valuable time on ‘padding’, rather than the all-important message about your business. Padding can be telling people what you’re about to do, thanking people (there is a place for that, but it’s not in your pitch), or spending too much time on your ‘ice breaker’ question. Avoid this cringe by remembering that every second is a valuable resource that could make a new contact and open up opportunities.
10. Start strong, finish strong
People remember the first and last things they hear. A weak start and/or trailing off at the end makes for a cringy pitch. So make sure you have a good strong confident opening and close, with your name and business at the beginning and end.
So I know it sounds like there’s a lot of ways to cause a cringe, but the good news is this – Fresh is the perfect opportunity to learn to pitch without the cringe. We provide a safe environment and plenty of opportunity to practice and top-notch training and advice.
Member and pitch expert, Sarah Bauling, ran one of her sessions in a Fresh meeting recently, which is . It’s full of fabulous tips and you can watch as one lucky participant learns how to transform their pitch before your eyes.
Our Fresh Academy training programme includes ‘Make the most of your pitch’, run by business communication expert Carol Benton. After new member Shari Aubrey attended recently, she said: ‘I feel like I have achieved something today – refining my pitch which I’ve known wasn’t quite right but wasn’t sure how to resolve it. The session was informative, incredibly actionable, fun and valuable.’
So come on, shake off your cringe and perfect your pitch.