I was at a networking breakfast this week at the start of a huge trade show in my home town of Bristol, UK, and in between the bacon and eggs, all 90 attendees (yes 90!) had 30 seconds to introduce themselves and their companies to the assembled throng.

Everyone got just 30 seconds because of the large numbers. Normally you get 45 seconds or a minute. And it makes quite a difference. If you’re expecting to speak for a minute and you’re told at short notice that you’ve only got 45 or 30, you have to replan your mini-talk instantly, which not everyone is comfortable with doing.

However, your ‘Networking Minute’ (or 45 or 30 secs) is a valuable marketing opportunity, so it’s worth taking some trouble to get it right. Here are my Top 10 Tips.

1) Prepare 3 versions, just in case – 30, 45 and 60 seconds.

2) Talk about benefits, not features. If you say “we make sprockets”, no one cares. But people see the relevance if you say “you probably don’t spend much time thinking about sprockets. You may not even know what they are. But everything mechanical in your life depends on them. So when they break down, it can spell disaster…”

3) Tell a story. People are bored by facts, love stories. So tell a story and sneak some facts into it. “I had a terrible nightmare last night. I dreamt that all the sprockets in our factory had failed. Then I woke up. Luckily, we’re there to make sure that doesn’t happen to you…”

4) Think about the audience. Put yourself in their shoes. Use their language. If you were them, what would be your major concerns?

5) Identify the problem of theirs that you solve. “You know how scary it is when a sprocket breaks and you don’t know where to get another one? We can take that worry away from you.”

6) Be human. Don’t go on endlessly about yourself but let them know briefly who you are. It’s OK to admit mistakes and vulnerability.

7) Practise. Repeat all three versions until your colleagues and family want to murder you. Remember, ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ contestants take a whole week to learn a 1’30” dance routine – so expect your networking minute to take at least a few hours before it’s reliably in your head!

8) Speak clearly. Slow down, enunciate, avoid jargon, hold the mic close to your mouth. It usually works if you touch it to your chin and speak across it.

9) Eye contact. Share your gaze evenly round the room, looking positively at individuals for a couple of whole sentences (about five seconds) before looking at the next person.

10) Smile! Emotions transmit. If you look happy and confident, your audience will be too.