How to answer the question “What do you do?” without boozing, sleazing, or wanting to die (part 1)

How to answer the question “What do you do?” without boozing, sleazing, or wanting to die (part 1)

Picture this:

You’re standing at a holiday party, bopping along to a festive playlist and piling bleu cheese onto butterfly-shaped butter crackers.

You feel FANTASTIC. Maybe it’s the candlelight, the rum punch, or your cute velvet dress. Who knows? Who cares?

(Side note: Velvet is BACK, according to Since I still shop at Charlotte Russe, we’re going with it.)

At that moment, your neighbor’s new girlfriend appears. She extends her hand, reveals pearly teeth and says, “Remind me, what do you do?”

Your brain fumbles. Uh…

“I breathe in and out, mostly.”

No, wait.

“Most days I drink too much coffee, spend 12 hours on the computer, and sleep like I’ve run a marathon. But I haven’t been to the gym in weeks!”

No, wait…

“Actually, I help enlightened women evolve their souls by writing websites.”


“So, um, nice to meet you, and if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some cheese to eat.”


Yes ma’am, the holidays are coming! That means LOTS of opportunities to practice your pitch.

Hooray! Or not.

If word vomiting on strangers leaves a bad taste in your mouth, you are NOT alone.

I love to network, but I haven’t always loved to talk about what I do.

Life was SO much easier when I worked in corporate.

  • Them: What do you do?
  • Me: I’m a marketing manager for a fragrance house. Which basically means I sniff a LOT of candles.
  • Them: What? That’s so cool!

(Some people also leaned in, inhaled deeply, and made a a joke about how good I smelled. I still don’t know if they were hitting on me or not.)

When I became a solopreneur, I became OBSESSED with how to introduce myself.

What should my title be?

What’s my elevator pitch?

What if somebody thinks I’m a phony?

What if I get a blank stare?

What if I miss my chance to hook a potential client?

Research nerd that I am, I read about all the “right” ways to put together a pitch.

I studied the websites of successful online entrepreneurs and the techniques described by communications experts. I played around with formulas, especially this one:

I help [ideal client] do/get/achieve [dream outcome] through [unique or concrete product/service offering].

After 4 years, dozens of parties, and bazillions of word experiments, I’ve developed a technique that works really well for me.

Now when I introduce myself to folks in my target market, I almost always hear those three magic words: “We should talk.”

My breakthrough moment came last December, when I attended a fancy networking luncheon with 30+ female business owners. We went around the table one by one and introduced ourselves.

Consultants. Lawyers. Cosmetic sales ladies. I felt myself panicking—everyone else was so smooth! So polished! So flawless-faced!

Then it was my turn. I took a deep breath and felt all my research zip out the window. Excitement took over.

I rattled off a few keywords (small business branding, writing, storytelling) then got on my soapbox and talked about helping the world through my day-to-day projects.

By the time I finished, my heart was pounding. That was so much fun.

And guess what? Everybody else loved it too!

I learned a valuable secret that day:

As long as you hit a few key ideas with confidence and enthusiasm, you’ll outshine everybody reciting their “perfect” pitch like a robot.

I don’t know why more people don’t talk about this.

Granted, I was a woman selling to women, and we love to cheer each other on.

But when you’re in a room stuffed with your target market, you are ALLOWED to ramble a bit.

Make sure you hit your main points upfront, then showcase your authentic passion.

More often than not, people mirror your excitement. And then, if they know they need the kind of help you provide, they ask for your number. 🙂

Next time, I’m going to give you a step-by-step breakdown of my technique so you can try it for yourself.

Get a jumpstart by answering these 2 questions:

  • What’s the main problem you solve in your business?
  • What goal do you help people achieve?

In the meantime, I’d love to know: What’s your biggest struggle when it comes to introducing yourself? Tell me about it in the comments.

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Stop boring the pants off your readers. You're way too fun for that.