How to Answer the Question: So, what do you do?

networkingbyRedHead5147onFlickrI’m a speaker – have been for over 25 years (back then, I was carrying a book of condoms and a banana around teaching my college classmates how to protect themselves from the HIV virus).

Because I’ve been on stages and in front of rooms of people for so long, people often assume that I do not get nervous talking with others.

This is pretty far from the truth, frankly.

They say we teach what we need to learn.

I’m a classic case of that. Part of the reason that I began speaking all of those years ago is because I got so anxious talking with others.  I began speaking largely because I had such anxiety in new social situations (at the time, I didn’t know what an introvert was – and that I was one) and I simply wanted some really effective ways of dealing with that social anxiety.

Networking can be scarier than speaking

I’ll admit that all of these years of speaking have been a powerful teacher. While I get nervous before every presentation in front of a new audience, I have a lot of confidence in my ability to engage and inspire a room full of people when I speak.

But here’s the distinction: giving a presentation and standing in a small group of my peers are very different creatures.

It took me a lot longer to feel comfortable at a networking event, chatting in small groups of people I don’t know, than it did to get comfortable speaking (if comfort is the word you want to use for a love of speaking that still involves significant nerves).

While this may surprise you, think about the difference. When you are the speaker, you are automatically given some level of “prestige.” You are being held up as an expert in your topic area. Assuming you only speak on topics where you have masterful expertise (and I highly recommend this be the case), this feels right and good to you as well.

Why it’s so hard to talk to people at networking events

Networking does not give you this automatic advantage that speaking does (unless you are the speaker for the night as well). Walking into a room full of people, for many introverts (me included) or socially anxious people (me included) can be overwhelming. Heck, you don’t have to be an introvert or socially anxious to feel significant discomfort in this situation. Thoughts fill our heads like:

Where do I go first?

Why does everyone look like they know each other, except me?

I can’t just walk up to these people – they are clearly engaged in private conversations!

And then, of course, the real crux of the matter:

What will I say to them?!

It took me a lot longer, but I decided a few years ago to take this fear of talking with others at networking events head-on, too.

Now, I’ll admit, it’s still not as easy for me to walk up to a group of people I don’t know at an event as it is to be the speaker. And there is much to say about what has worked well in these “networking”* conversations that has nothing to do with what I actually say. As in all relationship building, how we listen and show genuine engagement is far more important than exactly what we say about ourselves.

But that’s all easy stuff because as a people-loving introvert, I love hearing about other people. The hard part was talking about myself in a way that serves my business as well as the new relationship I’m engaging.

That said, I’ve come up with a pretty reliable way to talk about what I do at these events. Just in case you struggle with talking about yourself that way I have, I’ll give you the “formula” so you can plug and play your particular details.

A formula for answering the question: “So, what do you do?”

Here is the formula I use – and I share with all of my clients as well:

What do you solve?

For whom do you solve it?

How will their lives be better after buying your stuff or working with/hiring you?

If you use this formula, you will have covered the essentials of a great Hello Intro. (Since I think “elevator speech” in no way represents this circumstance, Hello Intro is what I call the answer to the question, “So, what do you do?”)

But even with this great formula, your Hello Intro might still be pretty boring. Even if it’s not boring, it might not express powerfully enough just how awesome it would be to work with you. Which is why I recommend adding one more element: a sense of what it feels like to work with you.

Adding in the element of what it feels like to work with you isn’t as difficult as it might sound. You do this by word choice, analogy or even just the tone of your voice. The point is that when people feel inspired to work with you or refer you to a friend, a whole lot of that inspiration comes from the style of your communication, way beyond the words you say.

An example. My answer to the question: “So, what do you do?”

By way of example, let me tell you my answer to the question, “So, what do you do?”

Let’s just play out the whole start of the conversation – just for fun :)

Lovely person at the event I’m attending: “Hello. Are you having a good time here tonight?”

Me: “I am, thank you. How about you?”

Lovely person at the event I’m attending: “I really am, thank you. So, what do you do for work?”

Me: (smiling at the invitation to share about my work) “I help women in business get what they want by stepping into their authentic, powerful voice.” (smiling again)

Lovely person at the event I’m attending: “Huh – interesting. How do you do that?”

Me: “Well… women come to me for three reasons: (tapping on my fingers to count them off) 1. They are frustrated at work because their ideas aren’t getting heard or acted upon in the ways they want, 2. They have a presentation coming up and they want it to be amazing (I’m a speaking coach), or 3. They own their own business and they realize they need way more clarity and confidence when they talk about their business and do presentations to magnetize clients.

Lovely person at the event I’m attending: “Well, that is very cool! I have a friend who is having that exact struggle in her work…” or “… wow, I really need you… ” (see, it works great! :))

Of course, I am quick to turn the conversation around and learn more about them. It is so important that we keep the emphasis on relationship-building, not on sales. Now is not the time to “sell” ourselves – the relationship is not ready for that yet. 

So, what do you think? Does this formula serve you in creating your own Hello Intro? Whether you like my formula or not, let’s hear your Hello Intro in the comments. I want to learn more about you. Plus, we can all benefit from hearing as many Hello Intros as possible to help us refine our own.

 

*I don’t like the term networking. It reminds me of a bunch of wires all connected together at a server in some cold corporate closet. I just haven’t come up with a better way to express this special kind of interaction. If you’ve got a better term, I’d love to hear it!

Thanks to Redhead 5147 on Flickr for this image that makes me think of one too many anxiety-inducing networking events of years past. Happy those years are over.

Lack of Clarity Is an Excuse

The essence of this video message (without giving away the punchline – that would be no fun!):

I’m telling it to you straight today:

Lack of clarity is an excuse.

Please note: I get paid to help you get clarity! I’m not kidding around here by telling you this.

And YET, you don’t need me and these processes to start doing big things today.

Because you are already way clearer than you realize.

So, if lack of clarity isn’t the issue… then, what is?

Well, it would ruin it if I gave it all away here in the text. Click play on the video, watch at least the second half.

Heed its wisdom!

And get out there and do awesome things right now, will you?

Start today, with one thing that you’ve been holding back on because you “aren’t clear enough.”

Proclaim the action you will take from exactly the clarity you have right this minute (especially after the big insight in the video) in the comments below.

This will be an act of courage for you today.

Can’t wait to hear what you are ready to no longer be “not clear enough” about!

Your Expression Élan Could Mean Love at First Sight (Part 3)

lookingwithinIn the last article in this series, we explored the three parts to Expression Élan. And, I told you I’d share some tips on how to reveal your three words. After all, this is an archaeological process designed to help you get lazer-focused on your core expression style – the one that will most naturally and powerfully attract clients you love.

This process is going to require that you listen and give yourself recognition for your most awesome qualities, so give yourself time and space for it.

The facilitated Expression Élan process that we would do together (if you were coaching with me) is a deeper, collaborative dive, so this initial self-study question process is quite different from that. But, the process outlined below will help you reveal some pretty powerful words that I know will serve you and your business building desires powerfully. So, take the time to do this.

Process for approaching your Expression Élan
(the modified, DIY version)

Step 1

Close your eyes and think back to the last time you were in a conversation with a group of people that you enjoyed a great deal. This could be at work or in your personal life. You felt awesome about your contributions and the conversation was flowing easily.

Notice, as you remember this conversation, how you were being (what you were feeling, what you were saying, the ways you imagine you were being received by others in the group). What words would you use to describe the way you were communicating in this conversation? Remember, this conversation is feeling fabulous to you, so these descriptors are going to be complimentary to you. They are going to represent the ways in which you were contributing to the goodness of this exchange. Give yourself a little time for this part.

Step 2

Write those words down on a piece of paper. They might be words like; funny, thoughtful, insightful, smart, open – whatever words come to you. Don’t limit yourself and don’t close yourself off with judgment. When you are doing this part, don’t think too much…just put your pen to paper and write. This is a brainstorming exercise.

Step 3

Now, go to the thesaurus and look each of those words up (I love to use www.visualthesaurus.com). Dig around in there.  Go layers deep with words until you land on a set of words that feels true to you. The words should also make you want to be more of the qualities that word represents.

Don’t be afraid to get creative during this part of the process. Use big paper with paints or crayons. Lean into the essence of words. Say them out loud and see how it feels. It’s okay to make up new words too. Look for colors and images of things you think represent who you are as well.  I’m not talking about just any images…I mean the kind that make your heart chakra light up (or simply make you want to do a spontaneous jig.)  The important thing is that you make it beautiful and make it your own.

You’ll know you have a great set of words when they light you up… when they push the edges of your own brilliance.

Step 4

If it feels good to you, see if you can choose which of those words fits into each category – soul, personality and verb. But that part isn’t required to start applying your three words immediately. When I do the facilitated process with my clients, I guide them into those three categories through the deeper-dig discussion. But for the purposes of this self-study exercise, just put these new words of yours to use! You are going to love the clarity they bring to your expression.

Your Expression Élan really will become a powerful guiding light in your business and your life. Use these words to stop more fully into your authentic expression. Commit to being more of them – infusing these qualities in your writing, speaking and networking.

This modified do-it-yourself version will give you a really good idea of how powerful just three words can be in feeling confident and clear as you express your work in the world. Spend real time on this and have fun! If you find that you want a partner in the process and really want to do the deeper, collaborative work to reveal your full Expression Élan, I’m here to help. Feel free to contact me at or learn more about it here http://www.michellebarryfranco.com/your-expression-elan/.

Your Expression Élan Could Mean Love at First Sight (Part 2)

Expression ElanLast week I told you Expression Élan is the three words that you choose as reflections of your most authentic, powerful expression. It is your best resource for your distinctive, memorable self-expression and business communication.  Your business name, tagline, website look and feel, and product and service titles—as well as your Hello Intro (more on that coming soon)—will all be way more interesting when you apply your Expression Élan deliberately throughout them. These three words act as guiding lights for decisions about word choice, brand colors and even what you will wear at your next speaking event. You will be amazed how clear and easy everything is once you reveal your three words.  Your Right Client will be drawn directly to you. But why three words? What am I talking about?

Your Expression Élan is a combination of:

  • your Soul Word
  • your Personality Word
  • your Verb/Action Word

Your Soul Word makes up the substance of your style and often resonates most with your internal experience of yourself.

Your Personality Word is experienced often by those around you and people may describe it as part of your personality.

Your Verb represents your primary mode of action in the world, your way of being.

Together, they work like this:

Soul Descriptor = Internal Experience

+

Personality Descriptor = Noticed by Others/Outward Expression

+

Verb = What you do, your consistent action play

______________________________________________________

Expression Élan

Now that you know what you’re trying to excavate, you may be wondering how in the world to do it. I know from getting to work with many individual business owners on core messaging and brand style that landing on how we want to express ourselves in business is really tricky and frustrating for so many.  Good news – in next week’s article, I’ll share my sure-fire process with you.

Until next week, you can read testimonials and learn more here http://www.michellebarryfranco.com/your-expression-elan/.

 

 

Your Expression Élan Could Mean Love at First Sight (Part 1)

ExpressionElan-button-150x150At some point, you’ve probably seen an ad or website for Coca-Cola. Have you ever noticed how you feel when you see the logo/colors?  In an instant you get a sense of what the company is about…classic, iconic, family-oriented. They use a traditional font and color scheme that tells you they’ve been around for a while, they keep their website and products simple, and they post information like recipes and contests that are meant for families to share. Their message is strong and clear. Can you say the same?

If each of us could explore and understand ourselves and our message as well as Coca-Cola, success is eminent. Your Right Client will be able to identify exactly what you do and who you are in an instant…and they will decide if they have fallen in love with you or not. That’s right! Love (or lack there of) at first site does exist.  It’s human nature to determine whether or not we like someone or something within 7 seconds of experiencing it/them using our 5 senses. Identifying your natural style of expression and allowing it to shine through is what I call your Expression Élan.   It is three words that you choose as reflections of your most authentic, powerful expression. It is your best resource for your self-expression and business communication.

From the language you choose in your marketing materials and business planning to the colors and images you associate with your brand, your Expression Élan will provide the zing that makes your business exciting and intriguing to your potential clients. I’ll talk more about what each word should represent and how to reveal it in next week’s blog.

In the meantime, If you want to read the excited stories of those who’ve revealed their Expression Elans, you can do that here http://www.michellebarryfranco.com/your-expression-elan/.