How many times are we asked that question? How many times do we stumble over the response? Let’s see. . . I provide financial services to seniors. . . or I’m a research analyst at the university. As a coach the main problem I encounter with my clients is coming to grips with what they do and why they do it.

Most of us know what we do but to say it in a way that engages people is another thing entirely. It’s rare that I meet someone at a networking who says what he or she does in a way that engages me. Usually I have to figure out how to get engaged with the person. Or worse still, after they say what they do, it falls flat. I’m not sure what to say next. In contrast our goal should be to tell people what we do quickly in order to peak their interest and engage them in a conversation.

Here are some tips I’ve learned about developing your quick, elevator speech in an engaging manner.

•Focus on the benefits your product or service offers. Instead of saying, I’m a financial manager, say: “I help people make money by investing.” What is it you do that others might benefit from? I have a colleague who says, “I help organizations turn sales into money.”

•When you say what you do, say it with passion. Give the important words emphasis. Recently during a workshop I asked the participants to tell me what they do. One woman went into a long description about how she finds the right jobs for the right people. When I challenged her to think of benefits and to give words emphasis, she came up with a new description of her services. Now she says, “I’m a match-maker. I connect the perfect person with the perfect job.” The excitement of her new elevator pitch came across in her words. She said it like this: “I’m a match-maker. I connect the perfect people with the perfect job.”

•Your goal is not to tell it all, but to engage. You want the person you are talking with to ask you that all-important question. How do you do that? Essentially you want to get the other person asking you questions.

•Remember your target market. Many entrepreneurs do not wish to limit their market. I have who clients tell me they do not want to create a niche because that limits their service reach. In reality, the target is exactly what it says. It’s a place where you aim. You might hit another spot and if you do, fine. But, you aim for your target. What does this mean? I have a client who finally narrowed her target to coaching for people in religious settings. She can focus on developing group coaching, seminars, written materials and all kinds of other materials for her target population. If, however, someone outside the religious community wishes to engage her services, that’s fine. Recently a skilled sales person defined this concept for me as “land and expand.” Once you land with your foot in the door, you can expand. The trick is landing!

William Osler was one of the foremost teachers and writers of medical education during the 20th Century. He was a great physician who paved the way for many young doctors. Before his death he instructed his friends what he wanted to be remembered for—not the many medical discoveries he made, not the textbooks he’d written—instead, he said, “I taught medical students on the wards.” That was his target and his elevator speech. What’s yours?

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Author's Bio: 

Dr. Joan C. Curtis is a Communication Coach, Consultant, Author and Speaker. She has done leadership training for over 25 years. Her new book, Managing Sticky Situations at Work will be released at the end of June, 2009. Find out more at her website: