Saturday, April 17, 2010

Pitching at Toastmasters


I just joined Toastmasters in February. For those of you unfamiliar with Toastmasters, it's a group that helps you with public speaking (or any speaking, for that matter).

There's a section during Toastmasters called table topics where members are called upon for an impromptu 2-minute speech about whatever the Table Topic Master deems at that moment. (Side note: the last three times I've done a Table Topic, I'm always the second person called. Kind of weird.)

Anyway, this last week, my table topic was "sell something in 1 minute." So, I thought, Easy! This is part of my job!

I saunter up to the podium. I dive right into my pitch. "I'm going to sell you on a Belkin Wireless Router. This should be easy for me since I do PR for Belkin and selling stories of products is my job." Sounds good so far, right? Well, nonetheless, I was nervous. I should have said, "This should be easy for me...yet I'm still nervous as hell because all you 20 people are staring at me and are probably like, what the hell is a router?"

To summarize, I did a horrible job, and I'm sure my fellow Toastmasters were wondering how I even got a job in PR given my pathetic attempt to sell them on a router. Pitching to strangers is something I do regularly. But what's different is that when I'm pitching, I don't have 20 people staring at me. And, I usually have the product with me, so I'm interacting with both the product and my audience. So, it's not just a one-way dialogue. Although the Toastmaster audience is a captive one, they're not necessarily interested in wireless routers. I realized that I made the mistake of picking a topic that could be too technical. Of all the products out there, I choose one of the most technical ones, a wireless router with advanced apps such as BitBoost, which lets you prioritize what programs you want taking up your bandwidth (am I losing you yet?). The Toastmaster group is a diverse one of various backgrounds and ages. I'm sure some of these folks aren't tech savvy...I should have pitched laundry detergent or something.

What did I learn from this? Cater my speec to the audience (something I do in PR anyway), pretend that I'm pitching to a small group of editors, and hold a prop as a placeholder (if necessary).

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