As part of a husband and wife small business team, from time to time, we’re required to step into each other’s shoes.
Most recently for me, that meant representing our business by speaking at a weekly networking event.
Public speaking and networking.
Both concepts I’m accustomed to and comfortable with. The room was filled with familiar faces and in I strolled smiling and confident.
A walk in the park, right? I should have nailed it. But I didn’t.
So how did it happen? How did I manage to go from experienced and prepared, to barely bumbling and mumbling my way through a simple 60-second business pitch.
What did I get so wrong?
The business pitch itself
If you don’t believe in what you’re saying, forget it.
And in this case, I didn’t.
To be clear, I believe wholeheartedly in our company.
I’m passionate about our brand and our message. But I turned up with a script. A script written by my husband, for my husband.
A script that on paper was a textbook. With all the key elements of a perfect elevator pitch, it was brilliant. Succinct and compelling.
And nothing like any business pitch I would have written for myself.
I thought I had it committed to memory. Then, in the first sentence, I tripped over a group of words.
That was all it took.
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One stumble to render me virtually incoherent. Even worse than a wooden, unconvincing delivery, I had an incoherent pitch.
Needless to say, an incoherent pitch is a highly ineffective business pitch!
The confidence snowball
I’d stood up confident and ready to own the room. But it didn’t take long for my first stumble to send me spiralling into panic mode.
Instead of taking a breath and continuing on, my eyes dropped straight to the script and started frantically searching for where I’d gone wrong.
Knees shaking and heart pounding it felt like an eternity before I finally located the line I’d stuffed up.
Off I went again and the snowball began to roll.
I’d recover from one stumble and head straight into another. The further I got into the pitch, the more mistakes I made and the worse my confidence became.
Instead of smiling, projecting confidence and delivering my message. I was head down. Eyes on script. Pitching directly to my iPhone.
By the time I got to the end, my body language said it all. Arms crossed over my chest, I’d retreated and was presenting closed off.
During the business pitch, I hadn’t made eye contact with anyone in the room. The volume of my voice was so low, I even heard someone say “I’m trying to listen, I can’t hear what she’s saying.”
I fell back into my seat with a huge sigh of relief.
What I learnt for next time
In hindsight, on the first stumble, I should have tossed the script and pitched from my heart.
I’m not an actor. I’m a small business owner who is passionate about our product and the service we provide.
I didn’t need a script written for me.
All I needed was the belief in myself and my message.