With the Southern C Summit fast approaching, it might be helpful to review your elevator pitch since there will be many opportunities for networking. In my work at the William and Mary Mason School of Business MBA program, one of our focuses is getting the students to answer that initial question in one sentence. You might be thinking to yourself, “That’s impossible!” With a little bit of practice and using the tips below, you will be prepared to make a lasting impression.
Let’s make a few things clear up front; the answer to “what do you do?” is not your job title. If you have read some of my past articles, you might have a head start if you have already discovered your Why, How and What. The answers to these branding questions apply to your personal brand as much as your business brand. If you want someone to be interested in you, you must be relatable, authentic, energetic, clear, concise and most importantly, leave them wanting more. That’s a lot to swallow, so let’s break it down.
In a networking environment, the best way to start a conversation is to ask someone “what do you do?” Keep in mind, that even as you wait to answer back, it is important to be truly engaged and interested in what the other person has to say in order to set the tone for an authentic exchange.
When the tables turn and they ask you what you do, be prepared with one dynamic sentence or compelling statement.
- Be clear and concise: Instead of saying “I am a Account Manager” say “I am in business development in the accessory market where I help match clients with the products they need”. As in the case study of one of my Artist clients, she now says, “I create lasting memories for clients through my medium of texture, color and fabrics”. Both of these options help the receiver visualize what you do.
- Be prepared to back up your statement with an example: The next question usually is “Can you give me an example of what you do?” If you are prepared with what I call “short stories” of your accomplishments, this step will be easy. You do not need to recite your resume. Practice by writing down some of your major accomplishments in a concise manner, being specific on why and having an example of what you do. And remember, it is all about the benefit sell. If you have been listening to the person asking the question, you will be able to relate your experiences and examples to their area of interest. For instance, if you are in Business Development, talk about how you were successful in matching clients with appropriate products and how they were happy with the results. Or, in the case of the Artist, she could talk about how she created a pillow out of a fond memory that created a heirloom for an family.
- Practice: If you practice, the answers to these questions will role off your tongue in a relatable, authentic, energetic, clear and concise manner. Try it out on friends and family before you come to the Summit and get feedback.
- Leave them wanting more and know how to follow-up: The Summit is all about connecting, collaborating and creating. Know your industry and try to leave your audience with an interesting fact. It could be a new trend, or something you read about their industry. If you have your audience asking questions and wanting more, then you need to have a follow up strategy. Suggest connecting through the Summit app, or set a time to catch up for coffee during the Summit. Even better, follow-up after the summit with a handwritten thank you note.
Practice makes perfect as they say. Be ready and be interesting as you arrive at the Summit. There are many new friends and lasting relationships to be made, both personally and professionally, if you are an engaged listener and prepared with your story.
See you at the Summit!