Five stories every entrepreneur must tell to sell

Elevator pitch
For the final part of our series on public speaking, our expert reveals how you can make yourself stand out from the competition simply through being able to tell your own story...


If you’ve read our previous features on public speaking, you’ll know that we’ve examined how to overcome nerves, how to improve your presenting skills and the questions you need to ask yourself before delivering that knockout speech to an audience.

But what about simply trying to promote your business to a prospective client or future employer?

When you’re operating in a competitive marketplace where people are offering the same goods or services, then how you present yourself and your story can be the difference between winning and losing a new contract.

Annik Petrou is the co-founder of Speaker Express, which hosts a monthly club night at 116 Pall Mall. It is a chance to hear from their members about how they use public speaking as a key business tool. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to improve your skills when it comes to doing a presentation to a room of total strangers.

Here, she reveals five simple but very effective stories that will bring your business to life and help it to grow.

1. Your Business Story

It could be that you chose to start your own company because it’s something you’ve always dreamed of doing since you left school. Or it could be that a bizarre set of circumstances resulted on you embarking on a major career change. Whatever path you’ve taken, it is a crucial part of what separates you from your competitors.

Annik says, “How did the business get started? This always makes for a good story. As an example, for me I didn’t suddenly wake up one day and decide ‘I want to be a speaker.’ In fact, it was quite the opposite. I absolutely hated public speaking so much. But the reason I set up the business is that I wanted to be in control about how I feel when I stand in front of people.”

2. Your Personal Story

Again, this is really about what makes you unique but also gives the individual or people sitting in front of you a bit of insight into the person they could be working with. An interesting or funny story helps to bring down the barriers between the potential employee and employer and puts everyone at ease.

As an example, Annik says, “Very often, when I speak to audiences, I bring up by my background. I grew up in East Germany before the Berlin Wall came down and, prior to that, having an opinion was something that wasn’t really nurtured in that environment. So, I always weave that part of my story in with the rest of my content. It gives you a little bit of insight about my history and where I’ve come from.”

3. Your Business Pitch

You may be at a networking event or a conference and you have a very limited amount of time to sell yourself and the service you provide. So, having a ready-made pitch can be an invaluable asset in that sort of environment.

Annik says, “You cannot begin to imagine how many people come up and want to speak to me about their business or a subject for a talk. I will say ‘okay, pitch it to me. What is your talk about? What is your topic?’ Often, they will have a great pitch but others will fumble about. Or they will say something vague like, ‘I speak about authenticity but I can tailor it’. That’s not what somebody wants to hear. You have to really pitch yourself in a powerful way.

“Tell them about the results you deliver. I don’t care if you talk about vulnerability, connection, authenticity. What I do care about is what the results are that my audience are going to take away from your talk.”


4. Your Vision

You could be an event planner, a floral arranger or a wedding photographer. However good you may be in your chosen profession you will be up against hundreds of other people who all have exactly the same skill. So, being able to talk passionately and with authority about what you can do to help a client realise a vision for a party or a corporate event is essential.

Annik says, “Why is your business so important to you? What does it set out to do that, in turn, helps other people?  Clearly, for us, it’s to help as many people as possible to fall in love with public speaking but also use it to give their business more visibility. So, make sure you have your story ready about your vision.”


5. Your Case Studies

Hopefully, by this stage you’ve already established a rapport with your audience but you need to show that you can walk it like you talk it.

Annik says, “You should have an amazing amount of case studies ready. When you’re selling your business, a great case study can really help you to promote it and demonstrate how powerful your work is.”

So, for example, that could be you showing how you took the brief for a wedding or a party, how you worked with the client step by step to deliver the end product along with the positive feedback you received.

In the case of Speaker Express, one case study that Annik references is a copywriter who is also one of their members and only had one speaking gig for an audience of just 20 people at The Marketing Society. But she puts the hours in to practise and perfect her speech.

Annik adds, “She was always good at speaking although I don’t think she really knew how good she was. She was able to sign up a corporate client which happened to be Twitter. From that she was able to get work with Amazon. And it all came from that one talk.”


Five ways to improve your presenting skills

How to overcome nerves and build confidence

11 questions to help you deliver that perfect speech

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