Speaking at Networking EventYou’re at a business event sitting casually at one of the many round tables as your plate of chicken breast, asparagus, and mashed potatoes with gravy is delivered. Finally, everyone at your table is served their plate so you can dig in!

Suddenly, a tap on the shoulder.

It’s the event program chair.

“Sir/Maam,” she says.

“I understand you have some insights on (fill in your topic of expertise). Our dinner speaker is going to be about 15 minutes late and I was told you might be willing to share your knowledge with the group to fill up five minutes or so. Could I bring you up in about five minutes?”

You might be thinking, “Yeah, sure! Like that would ever happen to me!” You would be surprised. I sure was!! It’s happened to me personally “4” times over the past 18 years of being in business for myself.

There are really only two options when confronted with an opportunity like this. You can either bow out or you can take the plunge and make the 5-minute speech of your LIFE!

Here is the process I used (will use again) when called upon suddenly to make a speech:

  1. Write 3 main points you want people to know – If you’re at a busy noisy table, you’re going to need to find a table in the back where you can be by yourself for the five minutes. Take out a piece of paper, or napkin, or cell phone (yes, many speakers are just putting notes on their phones now) and write three phrases you won’t need to look at later because you know them so well.
    Since my topic is usually something about marketing, I would probably pick three things people don’t know about that are happening on the Internet when it comes to marketing.
    A) Google change
    B) Importance of blogging
    C )Weaving social networking into it all
    Three topics I could easily spend a full DAY talking about, but I only get “5” minutes.

  2. Write down one sub-component to present for each of your three main points – You only get 5 minutes remember.

  3. Create an illustration to reinforce each sub-point – This is where your stories, experience, news you’ve heard, tests you’ve tried, all come into play. You will only get a single minute (or less) to really go into any detail so be sure to have in your mind exactly how much you want to say about each anecdote.

  4. Sum it up – What will be your SINGLE takeaway that you want the audience to leave with? Give them an action to take. Make a challenge to them. Send them off with something to remember you by. We’re always taught in Toastmasters to “tell em what you told them.” This is where that comes into play. But, watch your time. You only have about 30 seconds to wrap it up.

  5. Create your entry – What will you say in the first 15-30 seconds of your speech? You want to wait until last to create this because you will only have about a minute to come up with it before you are called up on stage. Humorous stories are good always, but remember you don’t have a lot of time up there. You’ll need to get into your content quickly. Starting with a question is appropriate in this case, although I think getting the audience to raise their hands is a bit cliche. So, I would personally suggest adding something extra if you go that route.
    For example, if I was to kick off a speech like this about marketing, I might ask the audience, “So, how many of you searched for something on Google today before you arrived here?”
    The extra I would add would be “Hey, look at that…everyone look around. You really need to see this. Keep your hands up for a minute. This is very important for every business owner in this room to know!”
    See how I used a cliche to make it a unique opening?


    To Sum it Up….

    I wrote this blog post in about 10 minutes. If I can type this much and present it to you in writing, using the same technique I just shared with you to make a speech in five minutes, I’m confident the next time you’re asked in public to fill-in some time on stage, you will have a proven set of steps at your fingertips.

    Where Can You Practice This Technique?

    You guessed it…your own Toastmasters club! Next time you have a speaker no-show, offer to the Toastmaster that you will fill-in. Just ask for five minutes to prepare.
    Do this a few times over the next year and suggest it to other members of your club. Soon, you will be looking for opportunities in your line of work to get called up on stage to do a five minute fill-in. And, you know what? Those opportunities will start presenting themselves.