Holiday Small Talk: Explaining What You Do For a Living

The holidays are a great time to see family and friends you may not have seen or spoken to in some time. And when conversations with people you don’t see regularnetworking, business networking, effective networking, business development, developing new businessly gets stale, the quest for common ground may lead you to a variation of this common fallback: “How’s work?” or “what do you do for work again?”

For entrepreneurs, who have often been greeted with blank stares in response to that question, the answer can be tricky.
For many of us, the reason we became entrepreneurs is that we discovered and mastered a niche. Much of our success derives from the fact that few truly understand our core business; that’s why people pay us to do what we do. But the ability to explain your business to friends and family has dividends beyond polite dinner conversation. It’s great practice for succinctly delivering your value proposition to potential clients and customers. Think elevator speech.

My background before starting Strategic Communications was as a director of corporate communications — neither my mother or my brother had a clue what that meant, and, in fact, it took my husband quite a while to figure it out himself.

When I launched my content marketing firm — Strategic Communications, LLC — in 2008, one of the things I quickly realized is that “content marketing” is jargon, just like “corporate communications” is. It’s important when communicating with potential client to translate jargon into meaningful language.

The same is true when communicating with family members. Instead of telling people I work in content marketing, or digital marketing, etc., I say something like: “I work with companies to help them sell their products or services. Much of my work involves writing for various online channels including social media, blog posts, website copy, contributed articles and even books sometimes.” That seems to make more sense to family, friends and potential clients.

My advice for others when communicating with family over a holiday dinner, or when communicating with potential clients/customers, would be to stick to the following guidelines:

  • Keep it simple.
  • Avoid the jargon.
  • Try to convey what you do in ways that are meaningful and explain the benefits of what you do to your customers.

While the motivation behind explaining your business to family and friends is different than the motivation for explaining your value proposition to potential clients, the skills needed to convey that message are the same. You need to be able to communicate clearly and concisely, and to effectively convey your value proposition.

How do you explain what you do for a living?

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