Answering the question “What do you do?”

I have just delivered a one day workshop on public speaking for a group of Women in Business on behalf of Everywomen.co.uk and I am exhausted, but exhilerated. The group were very positive and eager to learn and we had a very productive day. The focus of this course is not just on public speaking but on how to use speaking to promote your business, especially at networking meetings.

One of the tasks on the course that always seems to be the most challenging for everyone is where I get them to really focus on what they do and who they do it for, in simple terms how to answer the question “What do you do?” Most people in the UK tend to answer that question with a job description and when I asked it at a conference in Singapore in April I was surprised to get similar answers there. Sometimes I get an elevator pitch – a sixty second tightly structured promotional speech.

Both answers don’t work. The job description vitually ends the conversation unless it’s an interesting sounding job description, the elevator pitch stops people asking any more questions and start looking for an exit. 60 seconds is too much. The 30 second elevator pitch has its place but later in a conversation.

I believe that you have only 5 seconds to answer this question but you need to answer it in such a way that the person asking is prompted to ask, “Really, how do you do that” or “tell me more.” I have a few prepared answers. “I help women in business to make outstanding business presentations” or “I help women in busines to make more sales and have fun while they are doing it” or “I help women to be more successful in Business and teach men how to understand us.”

The key to this is that I have a clear focus on who I work with and how I help them. Helping people to create similar statements is very challenging.

When the first statement emerge there is a tendancy for them to be very broad. I help all businesses to be more successful. Or the way they help is too woolly and full of marketing speak.

The key to it is that you have to realise that an individual cannot help the world. The best we can do is work with a few hundred people. I might speak to thousands, but the people who book me to speak are a few hundred in a year. I can provide information and support to thousands, even millions, but not everyone is going to be interested in this blog or my web site.

I focus on working with Small businesses and in particular women in business – Its a very clear focus. It will probably get more focused with time. But it means I am able to develop a clear set of strategies. I understand the marketing problems of small businesses, I know where to find small busines owners, I can work hard to connect myself to small business marketing keywords.

It meant I had to let go of people I didn’t want to work with, I had to find a financial model that would work in a market that is not flush with corporate cash. I made a decision that I only work with people I like – so I get up in the morning and I am passionate about getting to work, I love what I do – and so when I answer the question “What to you do?” the answer comes from my heart and people know that.

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