Words Matter, and so does our Time.
If someone asked you, “What do you do?” How long would it take you to answer the question? 30 Seconds? 60 seconds? If you are anything like how I used to be, this may be a struggle but if you are in the pursuit of building a business or brand — it better not look (or sound) like one!
A few months ago, my cousin asked me this exact question and at the time I was still figuring out what it is that “I do” — If you follow me on social media, you know I do a whole lot. As I attempted to answer this basic question, I fumbled my way through a really complicated response. I talked about my That Guy’s Graphics, The Black Burdell, the Too Fly Fundraiser, the blogging that I do, can’t forget my 9-to-5 job as an IT Consultant, and my passion for workplace diversity and inclusion — it was ridiculous how completely incohesive my response was.
By the time I completed my incoherent mumble of an attempted elevator pitch, my cousin said, “Cool, now tell me what you do in 30 seconds or less.” I rolled my eyes, and tried again — with a focus on efficiency, I mentioned how I love to help entrepreneurs build their business, I’m super passionate about giving back to the community, and I want to motivate others to be the best version of themselves.
My cousins smiled, gave a subtle head nod, looked down at his watch, and said, “Great! Now tell me what you do in five seconds.” In my head, I said, “WTF.” Staring blankly at the infeasibility of this request, I have a full-time job, three other businesses, and even more interests — how in the world am I going to communicate this in five seconds. He intently looked at his watch with a devious grin, said, “Clocks ticking.” I automatically and unconsciously blurted out, “I build brands and inspire others to embrace their greatness.”
There you have it, I “dumbed” down my two-minute elevator pitch into what I now call a “5-Second Statement.” It only took a family member’s adamant requests (he is an Ex-Navy Seal, by the way, that should help my case, right) to pull this statement out of me.
What I really did was turn my stale laundry list of interests and passions into an impactful, engaging, valuable sentence.
There is a strength in being able to communicate efficiently, but more importantly when you’re asked what you do, you’re on the time of the individual you’re giving your pitch too — and if you’re pitching to Us Representatives Maxine Waters, anything over thirty seconds could be an issue.
“What he failed to tell you was, when you’re on my time, I can reclaim it.” — US Representative Maxine Waters
Now, if I asked you right now“So, what do you do?” Can you tell me before I begin to reclaim my time?
If you don’t think you can, we were once in the same boat. It’s borderline imperative that you communicate what it is that you do and more importantly why everyone should care into a simple sentence. If you need some help, check out a couple tips below.
1. Focus on ONE Word: What Best Describes your Business?
Powerful brands surround themselves around a single word; when someone thinks about your brand what is that one adjective that you hope comes to their mind. If you don’t know what that word is for me by now, either A) we aren’t real friends, or B) I’m not doing my job well at all.
What do you think that one word is:
- For Apple? Innovative?
- For TOMs? Philanthropic?
- For Hendrix Gin? Delicious!
When it comes to your brand, identify the word that best describes you and use that word everywhere, especially in your 5-Second Statement.
2. Cut the Fat: No More TI Mission Statements.
The superfluous pontificating utilizing obligatory vocabulary that negates the desired elegance of the seemingly advantageous use of grandiose designation … is so stupid. Put the thesaurus down, and use words that your desired audience will understand.
There are few things that annoy me more than pretentiousness or over an over use of vocabulary to put on airs (Five Guys napkins are at the top of the short list).
Many of you have probably heard of the phrase, “Keep It Simple, Stupid.” When answering, “What do you do,” make sure your response does four things:
- Is valuable to your intended audience.
- Inspires or motivates your intended audience.
- Is specific to your intended audience.
- Is memorable for your audience.
Value, inspiration, and specificity goes a long way and will resonate with those whose passion aligns with yours. When it comes to your mission or 5-Second Statement, craft it in a way that clearly indicates what it is that YOU are passionate about doing, not what you THINK your audience WANTS you to do.
3. Put it on a T-Shirt: Be Clear, Concise, and Connected
“Guard your time fiercely, be generous with it, but be intentional about it” — David Duchemin
When asked what it is that you do, be engaging, honest, unique, intentional and direct. All of the aforementioned qualities make for a gear T-shirt design. Your favorite apparel more often than not has a witty saying, something that resonates with you, it’s short and sweet, and easy to remember.
Below are some of my favorite 5-Second Statements from iconic brands:
- Life is Good “Spreads the power of optimism.”
- Sweet Green “Connects people to real food.”
- WeWork “Helps people work to make a life, not just a living.”
- Warby Parker “Offers Designer eye-wear at a revolutionary price.”
- Jet Blue “Inspires humanity — in the air and on the ground.”
- AirBnB “Allows people to belong anywhere.”
- Uber “Makes transportation as reliable as running water.”
All of the above would make great T-Shirts, they’re concise, they’re clear, and they connect to their audience, and although you might not know exactlywhat it is that they do — you have a great idea and want to learn a little more.
4. Plant the Seed: the Art of Professional Flirting.
You should always leave “the people” desiring more. After giving your 5-Second Statement, your desired result is for the other party to ask, “How do you do that?” Or, “Why are you passionate about that.” With your impactful, engaging, and concise 5-Second Statement you drop the bait, and if it’s effective you can utilize your 30-Second or 60-Second Elevator pitch to seal the deal.
For example, when someone hears the vague statement, “I build brands,” more often than not they ask me how I do that, and then and only then do I talk about my Graphic Design business, That Guy’s Graphics, or my Branding Services. When someone hears that I, “Inspire others to embrace their greatness,” I usually get a laugh, a look of skepticism or a sense prof hyper-engagement — all of which I love. Based on the reaction, I’ll talk about my blogging, my apparel line, or just my passion for encouraging others to embrace their passions and what it is that makes them unique.
What I’m really trying to say is, craft your 5-Second statement to have your audience wanting more, and if you have to bat your eyelashes or smize a little, I wouldn’t be mad at you.
Reduce the obfuscation, pretentiousness, and stumbling & fumbling over your words, save your elevator pitch for when it’s truly needed, and leverage your 5-Second Statement.