Category Archives: Public Speaking

How a start-up can nail their pitch

If you’re a start-up, chances are you are going to have to get out there and tell people about your new venture. What you say, and how you say it, is a lot more important than you may realise.

When it comes to communicating what you do, you don’t want to make a rookie error, just because your business is new. And the last place you want to miss the mark is when it comes to your pitch.

Preparing a powerful presentation is one of the best ways to communicate your start-up’s mission and vision. Deliver it well and you’ll earn a reputation as “one to watch”. Nail it, and your chances of success will increase exponentially. Using the “Power of Three” will help you to do just that.

Let’s say you’ve been invited to present at a crowd-funding event. This is a golden opportunity to shine in front of an audience of key influencers. Get it right, and you are on the road to funding your start-up. Get it wrong, and, well… you may not get another opportunity.

woman doing a presentation

Being asked to do a presentation need not strike panic – a structure will get you started

“Start with the end in mind”

In the words of Dr Steven Covey, “Start with the end in mind.” Deciding what to include in your presentation is crucial. There may be a hundred things you want this audience to know, but you have to be realistic – you can only say so much. Besides, they don’t need to know every detail about you, your partners, or your business.

For your presentation to be successful, it really helps to “start with the end in mind”. What must your audience know before they leave? This will enable you to narrow down the “hundred random things” to a handful of key points.

In identifying which elements are key, you will want to consider answering questions such as: What is your product or service? Are you already trading, or still in development? What expertise do you bring to the table? Do you have any competitors? What makes your start-up unique? How much money are you looking to raise, and how do you propose to get it?

Work out which are the most important points

Once you have got this down on paper – and I do recommend you start on paper – it’s time to decide which points are the most important. You may have five or six things, but there may be some overlap. Work hard to narrow it down, perhaps by grouping related items. Then, decide which are the three most important elements. Be ruthless. These three points will form the body of your presentation.

This is where the “power of three” comes in. It’s the reason there are three wise men, three little pigs, and three Musketeers! Three seems to be the perfect number of items of new information to take in. With your three most important points clearly identified, it’s time to start to construct your presentation.

Use the ‘Power of Three’ to give your pitch a fail-proof structure

The ‘power of three’ gives you a fail-proof structure. Think of a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich. It’s made up of three key ingredients – the filling – wrapped between two slices of bread. Those three key ingredients are the three main points that you must convey to your audience for your presentation to be a success.

When assembling your presentation “sandwich” don’t forget the bread! In our sandwich analogy, the “bread” is the introduction and conclusion, and each slice performs an important function. Together, they package your presentation in a format that your audience is familiar with.

When you are introduced, open your presentation by stating your structure. Tell your audience you have three main points, which you will deal with in turn. Knowing what to expect, your audience will relax. Your introduction has let them know they are in safe hands.

Paint clear pictures with facts and examples

Now, tell them your first main point. Support it with facts, or examples. You may want to tell them about your product and what makes it unique. Or you may want to tell the story of how you came to be in this business.

Then, transition to your second main point. For a start-up, it may be your understanding of a gap in the market that your product or service is poised to exploit. Detail this to provide support for your point. Consider sharing an anecdote which is related to this point.

Once you have done this, transition to your third and final point. Remember, you have to support each point with logic and examples. If you are speaking at a crowd-funding event, your third point may be your opportunity to make a compelling case for investment.

With you final point communicated, it’s time for your ‘other slice of bread’ – your conclusion. The best way to wrap up your presentation – both literally, and figuratively – is to use a tried and tested format. Signal to your audience that you are wrapping up by saying, “In conclusion. . .” and then repeat your three key points, briefly.

Make sure you issue a ‘call to action’ to your audience

If you are hoping that your audience takes some action based on your presentation, don’t leave the final step to chance. Ensure that before you conclude, you issue a ‘call to action’: tell your audience what you want them to do. Whether it’s to sign up for your newsletter, or visit your facility for a VIP tour – make it clear what their next step should be. And make it easy for them to comply.

If you want their contact details, collect business cards at the door. If you want them to visit your site, hand out invitations. Either way, ending with a call to action will ensure that your audience not only leaves with a sense of what your start-up is about, but importantly, what they should do with the information they have acquired.

When a business pitch is crucial to the success of your business, you can rely on the “power of three” because it gives your presentation a structure that is robust and flexible.

You can adapt this formula for a presentation of any duration. Just select your three main points – whatever “fillings” you fancy – and wrap your contents in the two metaphorical “slices of bread” that are your introduction and conclusion. Whatever you want to say, the power of three will ensure you say it well.

If you need help crafting a make-or-break presentation, get professional help. It will be the best money you spend this year. Contact Bruce Public Relations for expert advice.

This article was written by Laura Bruce for Bytestart

Laura Bruce elected to Toastmasters UK and Ireland leadership team

Members of the Toastmasters District 71 Leadership Team 2017-18 are formally inducted at a ceremony in Manchester at the D71 Spring Conference on 13 May. From left, Red Skelton, Patricia O’Reilly, John Cox and Laura Bruce

Founder of Bruce Public Relations, Laura Bruce has been elected to a leading role at Toastmasters International in the UK and Ireland. She was elected PR Manager of District 71 at the organisation’s spring conference in Manchester on Saturday, 13 May. She will spearhead efforts to raise awareness of Toastmasters, which is the world’s largest public speaking and leadership development organization.

Gerry Dunn, Director of Toastmasters in Scotland said, “I am delighted that one of our outstanding Scottish Toastmasters has been chosen to head up Toastmasters International’s PR operation in the UK and Ireland. Demand for Toastmasters’ communication and leadership programmes is growing rapidly, but in many ways it is still a well-kept secret. Laura is the ideal person to get the message out so that more people can enjoy the fantastic benefits that the Toastmasters programmes offer people.”

Laura founded Bruce Public Relations in 2006, and credits the voluntary organisation with strengthening her business. She said,  “With the help of Toastmasters I have become a better speaker and a stronger leader. Since joining, I have also become an ambassador for Toastmasters and encouraged hundreds of people around the world to seek out their local club, and recruited dozens to our club in Inverness. I am delighted our members elected me to this important role.”

Laura has been a member of Toastmasters Inverness since early 2014, and will complete her term as President of Inverness Toastmasters on 30 June. She was the inaugural winner of the Highland Business Women’s “Shining Star” award in 2016, and served as Vice President of Highland Business Women until May 2017.

Since 2014 she has produced and hosted a weekly radio programme, Dessert Highland Discs on North Highland Radio, and she writes a column on communications and networking for Scottish Provincial Press’s Executive magazine.

Toastmasters’ District 71 comprises all of Ireland and all of the UK except London on the south. Bruce is part of a team of four who together will lead District 71. They include District Director Robert Skelton from Cambridgeshire, Program Quality Director Patricia O’Reilly from Dublin, and John Cox, Club Growth Director, from Nottingham. Their one-year term commences 1st July, 2017.

Inverness Toastmasters meets the second and fourth Wednesday evening of each month, and visitors are always welcome. For details visit the club’s Facebook page, or the club website at www.toastmastersinverness.com.

About Toastmasters International

Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of meeting locations. Headquartered in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, the organization’s membership exceeds 313,000 in more than 14,650 clubs in 126 countries. Since 1924, Toastmasters International has helped people of all backgrounds become more confident in front of an audience. For information about local Toastmasters clubs, please visit www.toastmasters.org. Follow @Toastmasters on Twitter.

About Bruce Public Relations Ltd.

Established in 2006, Inverness-based Bruce Public Relations is a boutique PR and marketing firm that helps small- to medium-sized businesses in Scotland and beyond to raise their profile and grow their business.

The pay is awful, but. . .

Members of the board of Highland Business Women at the 2017 awards gala in March

Like many of you who’ve been working for more than a decade or two, I’ve been serving on boards of non-profits and charities for many years. From the Niagara Symphony Association and the Mackenzie Printery, to Highland Business Women and Toastmasters, it’s given me a chance to help an organisation that typically wouldn’t be able to afford to hire me by sharing my expertise on a pro bono basis.

Two years ago I was elected to the committee of Highland Business Women, as the organisation was nearing its twentieth anniversary. Although meetings — which mixed a social element with some professional development — seemed relatively well-attended, many who attended weren’t members, I learned.

Growing membership became my goal, along with raising awareness. I seized the opportunity to invite the women I knew who should be attending meetings, to come along as my guest. I also put my PR skills to work doing media relations, creating content for the website, and helping with the Facebook page. We got coverage in the local papers, people were interested in joining the group, and I even interviewed a few members on my radio show, Dessert Highland Discs!

In April 2016 I was elected Vice President, and already, the change was evident. Membership had grown, and the buzz at meetings was even greater. Working with a great team, we continued to take turns planning and running monthly meetings and occasionally, we hosted two meetings in a month. Attendance continued to grow, and — for the first time — some meetings sold-out, and we had to turn people away.

A year later, having achieved my objectives, I have stepped down from the board. Now with more than 70 members, my objective of growing the membership through a combination of personal outreach, and public relations has been a success. I also feel it’s important to make room for new people to get a role like this. It’s an unparalleled opportunity to develop new skills, particularly leadership skills.

I will continue to act as an ambassador for Highland Business Women, as I turn my attention outward. This weekend, I’m running for election as a director of the UK and Ireland branch of the worldwide organisation Toastmasters International. If I’m successful, it will be a demanding role, but one where I am sure I will be able to make an impact. Toastmasters has been a wonderful addition to my life, helping me to become a much better speaker, and leader, so it’s time to see how I can contribute.

In many ways, the work I did at Highland Business Women was a great microcosm of the work I hope to be doing at Toastmasters in the UK and Ireland.

I encourage anyone looking to stretch themselves to consider what organisation you feel connected to, that you can become more involved in. How can you put your professional expertise to work to benefit your community? The pay is terrible, but you may nevertheless be surprised how much you get out of it.

How to boost your business with video

Laura Bruce from Bruce Public Relations speaking to a group at SCVO’s #DigitalMeetup in Inverness 25 January

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you will have noticed that the popularity of video has grown exponentially.

From Facebook to YouTube, we are consuming more video content than ever before. And the business case for video is compelling: according to Hubspot, after watching a video, 64% of users are more likely to buy a product online.

2017: the year of video?

We’ve seen growing interest in video, but I believe 2017 will be the year that video really takes off across a range of social platforms. By taking a few simple steps, any business can capitalise on the potential that video offers to share your message far and wide.

The power of leverage

For small- and medium-sized businesses with small- to medium-sized marketing budgets, video offers a powerful tool to generate leverage in your promotional activity. Equipped with little more than a smartphone, you can create short videos to bring your website and social media channels to life, and reach potentially millions of viewers online.

What should you say?

One of the best uses of video is to help people to understand what you do, and how you do it. A “value proposition” is a tool to help potential customers understand the benefits you provide, the problems you solve, and why they should choose you over your competition. Your value proposition should be a top priority when developing video content, and it’s something we work with clients to develop before doing any marketing or promotional activity. Once you are clear on what makes your business unique, it is much simpler to communicate this and convince potential customers why they should buy from you. [More on this here.]

Educate clients online, and build rapport

Also, consider the questions you typically respond to from clients or customers. For professional services firms like solicitors, accountants and architects, a video can save time responding to queries about your fee structure or services you provide. Perhaps your video could spec out the path of a typical query, and take a potential client through the process so there are no surprises? One of your team could explain how your fees are structured, and which if any services or advice you provide free of charge. A video will save staff time, and also serve to educate your audience. Moreover, by using an actual member of your team, video can build rapport in a way an email will never do.

Use video to accomplish new tasks online

But your video doesn’t have to be about your products or services. I recently worked with a large accounting firm to develop a video to recruit graduates to become trainee accountants. Shared on their website and social media channels, the animated video truly engaged the target audience — outperforming all other recruitment tactics— and generated a talented pool of ideal candidates!

Get something down on paper first

While some people are talented improvisational speakers, don’t put undue pressure on yourself or your team. Start with a script, outlining your key message and some details you want to include. Scripting your video doesn’t have to be complicated, but preparing a script will ensure you communicate what you intend to. And keep it short. Hubspot notes that 5% of people will turn off a video after one minute, but this figure jumps to 60% by two minutes! And ‘word count’ will make it simple to see how much you’ve got before you start filming: between 120 and 140 words will take about one minute to speak.

The crucial ingredient: a call to action

Don’t forget to include a call to action. Make sure to give your viewers one clear action to take — invite them to visit your website, ring your office, download a PDF, or email an enquiry. And make it simple for them to take that next step, by including a link, an email address, or similar.

What are you waiting for? 🙂

Video can positively impact your business in a range of ways – from increasing sales and driving traffic to your website, to educating potential customers about your products or services. The sooner you start using video, the sooner you’ll experience the benefits.

If you want to use video, but are not sure how to start, drop me a line or ring me. I think every business could be using video, and I can help you make the most of it!

Laura Bruce, Bruce Public Relations Ltd. copyright 2017. 

This article is based on my column in the January 2017 issue of Executive Magazine, a monthly publication of Scottish Provincial Press.

Creating membership magic: tactics for Toastmasters

toastmasters-logo-color-pngdublin-conference-logo-d71

3pm Friday 11 November, 2016, Dubhlinn D71 Toastmasters Conference

Is your club struggling to build membership? Do you have a hard time getting visitors to come along? Do visitors come to your club, but not become members?

This workshop will give you the tips and tricks you need to attract visitors to your club and convert them to members. Laura Bruce, President of Inverness Toastmasters, will share her story of how her club went from only 7 paid-up members in April 2015, to 27 members just 18 months later.

She will share her ACE Formula ™ — a suite of online and offline tools that she used as VP Membership to attract  and engage visitors, and convert those visitors into Toastmasters. She will also share her expertise as founder of Bruce Public Relations to show how the humble media release can be a powerful tool to raise the profile of your club.

Who will benefit from this workshop?

Any one with a club that is struggling with low member numbers. Any club that attracts visitors but hasn’t been successful in converting them to members. Any club that is facing extinction.

Special relevance to: VPs Membership, VPs PR, Presidents, Area and Division Directors

Come along and learn how to put the ACE Formula ™ to work creating membership magic for  your club!

For more information: http://www.dubhlinn2016.com/laura-bruce

If you would like a copy of the slides, click here. 

Our 10th anniversary wasn’t what I expected

The 10th anniversary of Bruce Public Relations wasn’t quite what I had expected. Principally because it landed smack dab in the middle of one of the most hectic periods we’ve had. There’s “hectic” harassed and stressed, and then there’s “hectic” huge sense of accomplishment and pride. I am delighted to say, this was the latter.tedx-generic-image

First time on stage doing comedy -- what a thrill! Thank you Comedy Bothy and Hootenanny's!

First time on stage doing comedy — what a thrill! Thank you Comedy Bothy and Hootenanny’s!

On 7th October, I made my stand-up comedy debut at Mad Hatters above the famous Hootenanny’s in Inverness, and the following week, on our actual anniversary, I gave my first TEDx talk, at TEDx Inverness at Eden Court. I don’t think I have been that busy since we celebrated the opening of the Welland Canal and christened a new ship for Canada Steamship Lines — on the same day!

I got an incredible kick out of the stand-up comedy, and was thrilled when I was not only rebooked for December, but approached by another venue! And the TEDx talk? Well, that was an incredibly poignant and moving occasion.

What these events and the anniversary have made me realise is that the things that use to seem insurmountable, can soon become quite manageable. But I also realised something else.

I was approached afterwards by two women, both of who had to chase after me as I raced out of Eden Court desperate to get a bite to eat. Each one told me that my talk, “When we procrastinate, we can’t be great”, had made them cry. I was incredibly moved, and humbled.

What a privilege it is, to have that opportunity, to make an impact on a stranger. I’ve since met other people who heard my talk, and have also been touched by their comments.

Which brings me round to say: you never know when you are going to make an impact on someone. You never know when the words you say off-handedly will touch them, so do your best to make that impact a positive one, an encouraging one, a hopeful one.

3 reasons your business needs a value proposition

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to explain to people what your business does in one sentence?

If you’ve struggled to describe what makes your business unique, then a “value proposition” may be the most important business tool you’ve never heard of.

If even your dog gets bored when you talk about your business, we can help.

If even your dog gets bored when you talk about your business, we can help.

But just because you’re not familiar with it, doesn’t mean you should ignore it. Whether you are considering launching a new enterprise, or if you have an established business, there are many reasons to develop a value proposition.

Here are three quick reasons why your business needs a value proposition.

  1. Your value proposition describes how you create value for your customers. It captures what you offer, and why.
  2. A good value proposition will distinguish you from your competition. It elegantly communicates your USP or “unique selling proposition”.
  3. Whether you provide a product or service, having a strong value proposition is key to winning customers. It helps them to understand why they should buy from you.

In this video, Laura Bruce takes a group through the basics of value proposition design

If you would like to explore how a value proposition will help your business communicate with its audiences, we can help. We offer a half-day value proposition development workshop. At the end of the session, you will leave with a value proposition that captures the value you create for your customers, and explains why they should buy from you.

It may be the best money you’ve ever invested in your business.

Contact Bruce Public Relations in Inverness to schedule a call to discuss. Don’t wait another day, wasting time with marketing copy that doesn’t tell people what problem you solve. Call us now!

Highland Business Women’s Club 2016 Awards, and how we can all be “shining stars”

Shining Star winner 2016 Laura Bruce of Bruce Public Relations, with Highland Business Women’s Club President Isla Cruden

On Friday night at the Highland Business Women’s Club 2016 Awards, I was named winner of the inaugural Shining Star award for Most Inspiring Woman in Business. It was a real honour, and not for the reasons you might expect.

Created by the Club this year, the reason this award means so much to me is because it recognises the kind of businesswoman that typified the finalists in this category, and one that that I would encourage every woman to be: someone who is not simply good in business, but who makes a point of helping others to succeed as well.

I believe we have an obligation to help others, not just in business, but in the communities in which we live. What good is it to be successful, if your success does not help light a path, and pave the way for others to follow?

With organisations like the public speaking club Toastmasters, I have been very gratified, watching as new members I have encouraged to get involved develop their skills, and start to feel more comfortable speaking to groups. With the Highland Business Women’s Club I have encouraged dozens of women to join the Club and hosted nearly as many at meetings. Several of them took my advice, and among the finalists and winners on Friday night were at least a dozen members I encouraged to join. How gratifying!

Finalists in the Highland Business Women's Club 2016 awards -- photo by Alison White Photography

Finalists in the Highland Business Women’s Club 2016 awards — photo by Alison White Photography

I would encourage anyone who is settled into their business, and competent at what they do, to start to look outside. Find ways to have an impact beyond your own business, to have an impact beyond your own bottom line. If you are lucky, like me you will see women who had been hanging back, start to get into the thick of things. You will see people make connections with each other that didn’t exist before you introduced them. But most of all, you will feel a warm glow that you don’t get just from making your clients happy. You will get the satisfaction of knowing that you have made an impact on someone and something completely apart from your commercial activities. Isn’t that what life’s all about?

We can all be “Shining Stars”. So give it a shot. The life you transform may be your own.

Harness the “power of three” to power up your next presentation

As a business person, chances are you are going to have to do a presentation sooner or later. If the thought of composing something from scratch strikes you with fear, I’m going to let you in on a little secret, which will make every presentation you make much simpler to master.

woman doing a presentation

Being asked to do a presentation need not strike panic – a structure will get you started

It’s called “the power of three”, and in this case, the word “power” is very apt. When you are making a presentation – whether it’s a pitch to a potential new client, or updating your colleagues on the latest developments in your department – the ‘power of three’ provides an almost magical structure to ensure you deliver just the right amount of information. It’s the reason there’s “three wise men”, “three musketeers” as well as “three little pigs”!

Think of it as a sandwich. Your content – the “meat” of your presentation – will be up to you. But by putting “the power of three” to work for you, you will have a very robust structure that is simple to follow, and helps package your information into a format your audience can readily take in.

To get started, first identify the main points you want to convey in your presentation. This will be the “bacon, lettuce and tomato” in your sandwich. You may have five or ten, but there may be some overlap. Group them into themes. Then eliminate the weakest ones, and whittle it down to your three strongest or most important points. State your first point or theme, and support it with an example or a story. Then move on to the next one. Before you know it, you will have a well-structured presentation, based around three powerful points.

For best results, wrap your three points between an introduction and a conclusion. This is the “bread” that holds your filling together. Opening with an introduction will put your audience at ease. Tell them what they can expect to take away from your talk. This will motivate them to listen, and help them relax and know they are in good hands. Tell them you have three main points you will make. Now primed for what to expect, they can listen to your presentation’s main points, and follow each one. Conclude by summarising your three points at the end.

Armed with the “power of three” you now have a format you can rely upon again and again, for presentations of any length. Having a “go-to” structure to apply to your content will help ease the pain of making presentations. Your audience will find them easier to follow, and you may even find that you start to enjoy doing them!

Making effective presentations is crucial to becoming an effective leader, but often, we don’t get much opportunity to develop this skill. One of the best places to become more comfortable making presentations is Toastmasters. There are clubs all over the world, including one in Inverness which meets the 2nd and 4th Wednesday each month. Visit www.toastmastersinverness.com and come along to a meeting. You’ll soon be more at ease doing presentations at work. You may even find you have a talent for it!

Laura Bruce is an award-winning speaker and the founder of Bruce Public Relations, based in Inverness, where she works with forward-thinking organisations to raise their profile. She is the two-times Scotland champion of impromptu public speaking (2015, 2014) and recently placed second in Scotland in the 2015 Toastmasters International Speech Contest. If you would like Laura’s help to improve your next presentation, contact her here.

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