How To Communicate the Value of Your Work

Whether describing your role or your company's role, do so confidently and in a way that lands with your listener.

conversation at a business event
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Have you ever been asked by someone "What do you do?" and within ten seconds of you explaining it beginning with "I do x," you get a sense that they have heard enough and are turning off?

It's not too dissimilar from someone saying "How are you doing?" and feeling that they're not interested in your saying anything other than "I'm fine." And if you say anything more than that, you can sense that they are not really interested — just as in the "What do you do?" example above.

Why does that happen?

One of the main reasons people turn off quickly after they've asked you "What do you do?" or "How are you doing?" is that they're asking those questions more out of politeness than of interest and because they haven't learned any other "icebreakers."

As a result, as soon as they hear "I do x" and then you go on or instead of saying "I'm fine," you go into a long explanation of how you're truly doing, they don't want to hear it because they were just being polite instead of interested.

A good friend of mine, Alicia Dunams, coach, speaker and founder of Best Seller In A Weekend Workshop, shared with me a better response to the "What do you do?" question.

Alicia suggests that you respond with, "Companies/organizations/people hire me/us when ___________ in order to ____________ so that_____________."

Depending on their response to that and if you're describing your company and if they ask, you can then say what you specifically do at your company.

By using that approach, you are setting up a parallel to what they're not asking but may be thinking. "When"should communicate urgency and may correspond to an issue they or their company is experiencing. "In order to" should communicate a problem to be solved and may correspond to a problem they need solving. "So that" should communicate the benefit of solving it which may finally correspond to something they would be interested in taking action to solve.

For instance, if we were to answer this as anyone who works full-time for the Newsweek Expert Forum and who is asked, "What do you do?" you could respond with.

"People join our Newsweek Expert Forum when they want to attract new business and become a part of a high-achiever community where people help each other in order to take their career and success to a new level so that they will realize success they might not reach on their own."

If you were to ask me, what I do, I would say, "Companies hire me when a conflict or conflicts are preventing them from making progress in order to learn to effectively deal with a present conflict and any that ever come up so that they never have to waste valuable time and money on conflicts again."

Try using this framework to describe what you do without saying "I do x" and see where it leads. Don't be afraid to share the outcomes to help improve the technique.

Now I know you're also thinking: "Okay, got it. Now what do I say when someone asks me, 'How are you doing?'"

Next time someone asks you, respond with, "I'm good, and if you don't mind my asking, how are you doing and I mean, how are you really doing?"

That may cause them to pause and come back at you with, "What?"

If they do, respond with, "Lots of people ask that question as a polite way to make conversation, but I am someone who truly wonders how people are really doing especially in these stressful times because it sometimes leads to a more meaningful and memorable conversation that I'm game to have. So, if you're okay to tell me how you're really doing, I'm happy to listen."

They may not go for it. But sometimes it will lead to a much better conversation.

Of course, if you pick up vibes that this isn't a person you want to have a meaningful conversation with, you can just say, "I'm fine, thank you."

The Newsweek Expert Forum is an invitation-only network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.
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