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Answering the question


The answer to the question 'what do you do?' is much more important than you think. Melissa Kidd explains.

Let's face it. We're in a fast-paced world and we meet lots of people at events. Think back to the last event you went to... Who do you remember meeting? Struggling to recall anymore than a handful? First impressions coupled with ever-decreasing attention spans mean being engaging has never been more important. So, how interesting and memorable is your answer to, 'what do you do?'
Now of course, I realise I may well be asking the wrong person. So here's a better question, how often you get these kind of responses, 'oh that sounds interesting, how do you do that?', or, 'oh I could do with some of that – how do you do it?' or a variation on that theme?
Let's look at what you'll often hear at a business-mixer networking event and why the answers aren't very effective for generating leads and referrals. Some people will give you their job title e.g. 'I'm a graphic designer'. This doesn't work well for lots of reasons.
Firstly, because they haven't actually answered your question. You've asked what they do, not what they are. And job titles don't win many points for being engaging. Furthermore, you may not know what that role actually entails but may feel like you should, so won't ask. Or you may not want to spend the effort finding out. All in all, not terribly inviting, unless you're in the same role.
Or they may give their sector, 'I work in marketing'.
This doesn't work well for reasons above. You don't want to make your listener work hard to understand you. Remember, it's safe to assume that people aren't interested in you. They're interested in what you can do for them or their contacts.
Or they'll go on a ramble. This is usually because they've got a difficult concept to convey and frankly feel that you need to know all about it to get a sense of how brilliant it is. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm all for enthusiasm. Sometimes it just needs to be curbed. Remember: be brief, be bright, be gone.
And finally, you might get a robotic answer. These are people who've spent some time on their answer to 'The Question', found something that kind of does the job, so keep trotting it out – without much consideration for who is actually in front of them.

So what do you need to be saying?

Now, of course, this depends on whom you're talking to and the purpose of your conversation. So you will need a number of different ways of describing what you do. However, I think there are certain things it must convey – one of which is your specialism.
Other things may include your target audience, the problems you solve, the results that you achieve and the value you create. Having said that, less is more – you don't want to go putting yourself in 'Rambler' category. Much better to say a little and wait for a response. Draw your listener in.
This business of crafting your introduction is one of the areas we cover in the 'Make yourself Memorable' workshop. Very often we inadvertently withhold information and interesting stories because we can't see their immediate value. It's only when you work with others that they surface.
I have also got a range of phrases that act as tools to focus your thinking. This step by step process, ensures that you have a number of different and relevant ways to explain what you do – no matter where you find yourself answering 'The Question'. Having a range of descriptions that you feel comfortable saying is one the most important factors in increasing your confidence and effectiveness when developing new business. It's also crucial part of ensuring you get more leads and referrals.

Melissa Kidd is a coach and the founder of Coaching Creatives. Follow her on Twitter:@melissakidd

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