I attended a local Business Networking International meeting today as a guest of a new friend. Part of the meeting is giving everyone a chance to speak for 45 seconds about what they do. It’s a chance to practice the elevator speech among friends. Members repeat this every meeting (weekly). You’d think small business owners would value this opportunity and have it polished and ready.

You’d be wrong.

While about half the folks were extremely good, that leaves the other half. I saw folks read from paper. I heard ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’. I saw folks stare at the ceiling. I heard people stumble over their practiced speech. I heard weak language like “I think I can help” and “I hope we get a chance…” I heard content with no close. I even heard one person forget their business name and start over.

Visitors get a chance as well, so I gave a new elevator speech a shot. When I finished, one person shouted, “He’s done that before!” (evidently the bar is pretty low for first-timers). They were wrong. I thought it up on the drive over — I had a chance to practice yesterday’s lesson, and I intended to use it.

The guy who invited me had asked me to critique him. He was solid, but there were some small adjustment that could make a big difference. I mentioned his gestures. He replied, “Yeah, I noticed your arms didn’t move except when you made a point.” Yep. Exactly. And I don’t do anything magical and I’ve got a world of room for improvement.

But the little things make a BIG difference.

Know your elevator speech cold. Do it well.

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