Well Said Wednesday: Who Are You? (And Why Should I Care?)

Next week, I am headed to a several-day, out-of-state conference with a couple hundred other entrepreneurs working on their businesses.

Most of my prep work is done. Flights and hotel were booked long ago, the conference itinerary is loaded into my calendar, I’ve got an Evernote list of local restaurants I want to try. I’ll pack next week so there is only one thing left to do:

Practice my answer to “so what do you/423 Communication do?”

Yes, all these years later, I still think about my core message and I still practice saying it.

If there’s ever a time to be on message with a strong intro that captures what your business does, it’s at a conference. It’s a no-brainer question you know you’re going to get. Repeatedly. And, you know your business better than anyone. There’s no reason to mumble or shuffle or blather.

Still,  it happens to the best of us. We meander our way through what we do and cringe as our words are met with a blank stare or a polite retreat.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Watch out for these four common traps that kill our introductions:

  1. Relying on a intro that isn’t very descriptive.
    We know what we do and what title we’ve given ourselves. But what does it mean to the person whose hand you’re shaking? How does it translate into value for your customers? If you don’t have clarity about how you make a difference, you can’t create a clean, lively, succinct introduction.
  2. Covering too much ground.
    Some businesses are complex. Some are multi-faceted. That’s cool, but it doesn’t mean you get pass from having a clean, lively and succinct introduction. Boil it down to its most compelling essence. People can always ask you questions (and those who hate making small talk will thank you for giving them some conversation fodder.)
  3. Not considering your audience.
    You’ve done your homework (haven’t you?) and you have a basic understanding of who will be in attendance. Focus and adjust your introduction to match the audience. For instance, one area of my business is creating employee communication strategies to support organizational change. Will this be relevant to a  a room full of small business owners and entrepreneurs? Not likely. I’m better off focusing on content planning and message development.
  4. Not practicing. Out loud.
    It is a universal truth that the way you say it in your head and the way it comes out of your mouth can be very different. If you don’t believe me, record yourself saying (not reading) a description of your business. Then listen to it. If you haven’t practiced, it probably sounds a little rough, a little rambling. You can bet I’ll be pacing my hotel room telling the furniture that I am “a content coach to small businesses, helping them get clear on their message and deliver it consistently and authentically to support their business.”

Like most things in life, a little planning and preparation can make a big difference when you want to be well said. A clean, lively, succinct and focused introduction sets you up as someone who knows what she is doing and the value she provides. Every entrepreneur deserves that.

So tell me, what do you do?

PS – Later this year I am re-releasing the fun and effective “Rock Your Elevator Pitch” workbook and launching the Core Message Crash Course. Get yourself on my mailing list if you want to stay on top of these programs before they launch. Sign up below.

Well Said Wednesday: Consider the Hunch

We live in a metrics-driven world.

How many likes did that post get? How many followers do I have? How many readers joined my mailing list? How many mailing list subscribers have turned into clients? How many clients have referred new people?

As small business owners, we spend a lot of time counting things. We’ve been raised on the idea that “what gets measured gets done.” KPIs or bust. (If you’ve been fortunate enough to live blissfully free of corporate acronyms KPIs = Key Performance Indicators.)

Paying attention to the right numbers is necessary to running a business.

So what do you do with a flash of inspiration that doesn’t come with a ruler to measure it against?

What happens to the language you know will speak directly to your ideal clients but hasn’t been tested against top-performing keywords?

How do you handle a program idea that appears out of thin air without reams of data or research in tow?

Do you ignore it? Or do you Frank Capra it?

That quote was last week’s Friday Inspiration, direct from Frank Capra, the director of classic movies including It’s a Wonderful Life, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington and many others.

And it’s a solid endorsement to not let those nudges go unheeded. They are a signal that may lead you to create something unexpected, unexplored and unrepresented in the world.

Play with that hunch. Give it some space to breathe and see what it turns into.

Maybe it’ll be something, maybe it won’t. Maybe it will freshen up your thinking about what you do and how you talk about it. Maybe it will just be a funny little idea that doesn’t stand a chance of panning out.

That’s okay.

All metrics all the time make our businesses, our words and, dare I say, our personalities* a little dull.

Leave some room for the hunch. You never know what you might end up creating.

Have any hunches tapped you on the shoulder lately? Tell me about it on the 423 Communication Facebook page (and “like” 423 while you’re there, because, metrics!)

*Okay, the personality thing is completely subjective and coming from the skewed perspective of someone who could easily convince herself to follow a sketchy hunch into a dark alley. For a long time, numbers and metrics were not my thing. At all. Residue of that anti-metric zealotry still pops up from time to time. I’m working on it.

Photo: DeathtoStockPhoto.com