So last Friday, my editor Cate invited me to this book club thingamajig at Hotel Metro, Some quiet hangout near Java, Koinange street.  It had been organized by a bunch of youthful guys going by the swanky moniker; League of Young Professionals, LYP.  These are basically guys on their first or second jobs seeking to scale the rungs of the cooperate ladder. Or guys seeking to augment their forte in the blistering entrepreneurial space in this city of vanity. Smart, and decent chaps and chicks. Mature crowd. Guys in fitting suits and cosmetic accents on their sleeves. Guys with designer scents and flashy car keys. Guys with dreams to change the world. But most importantly, guys with unyielding love for books.

The meeting was to commence at 5.30 pm, and so at 5.25 pm I was striding into the serenity of Hotel Metro. Elegant ambiance. Exotic decor. Warm reception. {Just so you know, I haven’t been paid to say those things}. I imagined that I would walk into a banter filled room. Room teeming with cocky guys with rolled up sleeves and loosened ties trying to chat up pretentious yellow yellows in short skirts. I was wrong.  I found this forlorn looking guy with a ghastly beard immersed in a brown leather couch at the reception, buried in his phone. He was the first arrival. His shirt starkly resembled mine, so I instantly hated him. I chatted him up a tad nonetheless, and we made fun of those African timers who’d scamper in at 6 pm with a phony sense of urgency. Guys with no new-year resolutions to keep time! He went back to his phone. I hated him more. Him and his miserable phone. {Never mind it was an iPhone, and I had a cheaper and more miserable phone in my pocket. hehe}.

Then guys started trotting in at around six as anticipated. Some in pairs. A short lady with a grey knapsack led us upstairs to the designated room. Because she seemed to know her way around, I asked her for directions to the little boys’ room. Chisas, I’m always peeing!

Anyway,

So guys are streaming into this long boardroom with fancy brown chairs, and a white board on one end, which has a projector hanging overhead. Everyone is wearing their happy mask and outdoing themselves with presence, and saying happy new-year manenos, and laughing politely, and guys are trying to be funny and chicks are proving to be classy. And some accents are so fake you want to just die and resurrect in Pluto.

Eventually this tall dark guy in a blue suit and crisp white shirt calls the room to order, introduces himself and articulates the agenda – presentations of three books as recommended in the previous meeting. But because this is the first meeting of the year and there happens to be invitees on board, everyone will have to introduce themselves. So here is the rub; you say your name, what you do, and your new-year’s resolution. I’m horribly poor at such stuff. It’s like being put on the spot – something I abhor. I hate the lime light. I prefer to lurk in the shadows.

Then the guy says that the best pitch will be rewarded. It takes me a minute to digest and make sense of what that shit means; Pitch. It slowly downs on me that it’s how you sell yourself during an introduction. Something that this book club is also about; pitching, effective communication, public speaking skills, presentation skills, social etiquette and dress code. Those who’ve been here before have a hang of it and they rub it on our faces with their vim and swagger.

First off the bat goes this curvaceous chick in a light green dress and blonde weave that looks like hay. No, seriously, it looked like hay. She’s heavy on make up so I’m not sure of her real complexion. She has black nail polish. She sashays to the front, her heels pecking the tiles. She oozes confidence, which makes her sexy. Her energy is contagious. I realize she’s held her audience captive already without even saying a word.  She is elegant. Elegant, poised and pretty. She collects the mic from our tall MC and right away throws a question at the now mesmerized audience…

Clearly, guys are now just drooling. We are damned because we never know how to conceal it. Ladies usually do a splendid job at concealing their awe. A lady could be  so smitten by a guy, but she’ll act with spectacular indifference, and you’ll chase her for months, and when she feels like you’re on the cusp of despair she’ll ask you, “kwani what sort of a man are you? Real men are resilient. Am I not worth your resilience?” you’ll probably smirk and employ all the tricks in the bag and when you finally conquer, she’ll go like, “so where do I stand? What are we? Where is this headed?” And she’ll want you to put a rock on her middle finger the following week. And I said a rock, not a cheap metal that rusts after two weeks.

Anyway, she tosses this question – her voice is husky, her English crisp – “has your business failed to reach its target clientele, and now you feel like you are winking at a girl in the dark? Are you grappling with stage fright during presentations and you want to acquire some confidence, and technique, and boldness and be sexy? Worry no more. We are here to give you heavy social media presence yaddi-yaddi-yadda … and what’s more, we will help you be an effective public speaker. She then she said her name, now holding her waist with one hand, the name of her company that deals with social media marketing plus offering social skills/etiquette services. There was a thunderous applause, mostly from the men folk.

When the next chick rose to introduce herself, there was raucous laughter. The bar had been set in the sky. She didn’t disappoint though. I liked her. I liked her because she didn’t try to be like the first. She ran her own race and didn’t appear keen on winning approval or validation.

So that was the trend for the next few guys, and when it reached my turn, I felt like coriander. I calmly walked to the front, rattled out my name, mentioned something about being a hustler writer and before anyone knew it, I was ambling back to my chair, with no care in the world about pitching. I mean, how do you pitch a blog that no one reads?

Eventually the intros were over, everyone having tried to outdo each other with humor, and style and fancy words. There was no trophy but gems of wisdom and insights from two social skills gurus seated quietly at the back.

And so that’s what today’s post is all about; the art of pitching.

There’s this bubbly lady who was in a yellow dress. She looked familiar though I couldn’t place a finger on where precisely I had seen her. Said she once worked on TV. She made a lot of observations and comments but I’ll just try gleaning on the main talking pints;

  1. Ask a question – this is the surest way of engaging your audience and sort of quickly breaking the ice. It works to relieve the pressure off you too. It can make your pitch memorable and attractive, provided you ask the most poignant questions. However, they should be three question tops.
  2. Use statistics – Makes you sound authentic and well informed. It wins confidence and respect.
  3. Tell a story/use an anecdote – instantly captures the attention of the audience. Arouses their interest in you and what you’ve got. Everyone likes to hear a good story about people. Makes your audience feel they can relate with you at a personal level.
  4. Narrow down to something clear cut, for the sake of clarity and impact. The one thing you want to be remembered for at the end of the function. The one thing that will nudge people to come looking for you.
  5. Hypothetically connect with someone that might be a prospective client in the audience.
  6. Capitalize on visual contact.
  7. Be unique in your technique. Don’t be banal and mundane. For instance there’s this portly guy who introduced himself by saying that he’s an insect that stings but has this sweet excretion. Everyone chorused “a bee!” just for the guy to say that he’s in the business of making bee hives and honey harvesting. That stuck!
  8. Wear solid colors. Eyes love soft muted tone. Multi-colored outfits make the eyes busy. Solid colors command attention, and are easy to the eye.

 

So go ahead and shine!

mic

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