So, what do you do?

How many times have you been asked the question, “what do you do?” and you mumble some reply that rambles on until the person who asked you wishes they hadn’t.

You need to be ready to answer the question

To be in control of the situation you have to be ready with a reply that answers the question, interests the person you are talking to and makes them think “tell me more”. This will also help you to feel good about what you are saying and what you do. When you feel good about what you do, you not only tell more people about it, you do more of it and that helps you to be more successful. Also, if you can’t explain what you do then maybe you aren’t sure what you do and this might make it more difficult for you to do it effectively.

Tell me more…

It’s possible that one of the reasons that careers in medicine and the law are so popular is that it enables people to answer this question with, “I’m a doctor”, or, “I’m a lawyer”. However, please note that just stating your profession doesn’t tell people much about what you do. The difference here is that because most people know what a doctor or a lawyer is, the next question will automatically be “tell me more”, and it is at this point that they need a good elevator pitch. In other lines of work we need to think a bit harder from the outset about what it is we do and be able to explain it to people in a brief and interesting way.

You need an elevator pitch

The name usually given to this brief and effective explanation of what we do is an “elevator pitch”. Apparently, it should enable you to explain what you do to someone during a short elevator journey between floors. Once the doors open you need to be finished because the person you are speaking to will get out. If you want to speak to that person again about what you do you had better have interested them and got them thinking “tell me more”. For use in and out of elevators, developing an elevator pitch is one of the most important things we can do.

What goes in your elevator pitch?

So, how do you go about developing your elevator pitch and what should it contain? Well, like any good story it should have a beginning, a middle and an end, so it needs to have a structure. It should be clear when you have reached the end and the ending shouldn’t leave you and the listener feeling awkward. Instead the listener should be thinking “tell me more” and you should be ready to tell them. You may have noticed that the “tell me more idea” is repeated over and over again here; that is because it so important. If you don’t make the listener think “tell me more”, then the alternative, and most likely, response will be “so what”, which you don’t want.

How long before they get bored?

There are lots of opinions about how long an elevator pitch should be. However, around seven seconds seems sensible. It only needs to be long enough to include the main points and encourage the listener to think “tell me more”. Even if you have the best elevator pitch in the world, the listener is going to want to ask some questions and may lose interest if they have to listen to a long monologue.

Benefits, benefits, benefits

So, in reply to the question, “what do you do?”, what will you say? Start simply with what you do (not your job title) and then finish with the benefits you offer. For example, I (we, my company) help people to …, which means that…, and so on. Don’t just say, I am a…, and leave the listener to figure it out. It doesn’t matter whether you would like them to become a customer, a business contact, a friend, an employer or whatever, you need to explain how you think you add value.

You need to know what you actually do for people

If you appear to be clear about what you do and how it is of value, it makes you appear better at your job, whatever it is. If you don’t seem to know what you do and how it is of any value then you may not look as if you are good at your job at all, and it is less likely people will want to work with you. So, develop that elevator pitch today!

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