“So, what do you do?”

What do you say when someone asks “So, what do you do?”

In my last post I wrote about how to put together your 60 second speech (also known as an elevator speech), as many networking meetings have an item in their agenda where each person is given 60 seconds to introduce themselves and their business.

A comment on that post reminded me that while it might seem tempting to have a similar spiel prepared for any opportunity when someone asks “What do you do?” – this might not be a very effective strategy for your business. In fact, it can even be harmful for the health of your business, says communication consultant, Felicia Slattery…

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An Elevator Speech Can Be Harmful for the Health of Your Business

by Felicia Slattery

Let me pull out my soap box for a second….

As someone who teaches public speaking & communication for a living, I REALLY do NOT like “elevator speeches.” Here’s why I almost never use the elevator speech I have just in case — and in what situation(s) I do use it:

If the purpose of being at a networking meeting or party (or wherever people will ask you, “So what do you do?” is to come up as a topic), is to engage a person and get to know them at least on some sort of personal or professional level for the moment, spitting some memorized schtick at them is pretty much the opposite of actual connecting.

What to do instead… personalize your content to the actual human being you’re talking to. Have a conversation with him/her. Ask a question about them. For example let’s say a social media expert who runs campaigns for women business owners named Sheila could say to me something like,

F: “Hi Sheila! So tell me more about yourself. What do you do?” (I don’t ever ask THAT question, but let’s for the sake of this incredibly long comment say I do)

S: “Felicia, you’re at this meeting because you’re in business for yourself, right?”

F: “Sure. I just love this group of women business owners.”

S: “In addition to in person networking meetings like this, do you spend any time online doing any social media like Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn?”

F: “Yes! I LOVE social media. It’s been one of the most important tools I use to effectively communicate my messages online. I’ve connected with loads of people from all over the world. Are you active?”

S: “Definitely! It’s great you are, too. There are so many women who would like to be, but let’s face it, social media can be confusing — and can take a lot of time if you let it.”

F: “Tell me about it!”

S: “You asked what I do… I actually run social media campaigns for women business owners who need some help freeing up their time but still want the work done. In fact, I have a few clients like you who understand the power of social media and like to do a lot on their own, but I set up marketing posts in advance for them and free them up from some of the more mundane and less personal aspects of social media.”

See– we had a conversation where she was able to play off my comments where I said how I connect with people on social media and that I agreed it could take a lot of time. If I said something like “I don’t have time for all that junk” or “I tried the Twitter thing once, but I don’t get it,” the conversation could have gone in an entirely different direction. But she would be able to respond to my exact situation because she didn’t just blurt out her answer right away in the conversation.

When would I use an elevator speech? At a meeting where everyone is going around the room and you have about 10-15 seconds to introduce yourself. You’ve got to have something smart and memorable. And heck, even then I often change up what I’m saying or doing to shake up the room a bit!

Returning soap box to under the counter, now. Ahem.

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Felicia Slattery is a communication consultant, speaker, and coach. She teaches small business owners how to use public speaking to market their business at http://SignatureSpeechSecrets.com

What do you think? How do you answer the question “What do you do?”

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