Whether you own a business or work for a company or run a non-profit agency, at some point you have to be able to talk about what you do and why someone should engage you or hire you or donate to your cause.

It comes up at structured networking meetings of course. And “What do you do?” is also very often the first question people ask in social settings At a party, a neighborhood gathering or a PTA meeting, you’re likely to have someone query you about your work.

How do you answer them?

There are a lot of formulas for what’s often called “the elevator speech” and any of them can work.

The problem comes up when you sound like you’re relying on a formula. It’s liable to come off as stiff and boring and, well, formulaic.

That’s why I’ve gotten away from calling it an “elevator speech.” Just think about it. When you meet someone – do you want to hear a speech? No. You want to have a conversation.

So I encourage my clients to play with what they want people to know about them and their work. To have a light touch with it. And to vary what they say, depending on who’s listening.

Here’s one way to do that. And yes, I guess you can call it a formula. In fact, let’s go all in and name it the Px5 formula.

Who are the people you serve? I always tell my clients to start talking about their work by talking about who they work with. Look, when you hear somebody launch into I-I-I-me-me-me, it doesn’t take long for your eyes to glaze over, right? So you don’t want to be that person.

When you make it about them instead of you, you draw people in and make them want more.

What is the pickle they’re in? This is where you describe the problem your would-be clients have. And the more you use specific, sensory language, the more magnetic you’ll be.

People want to know that you get them. That you understand their situation. Of course they also want to know that you have a solution for them …

What does the promised land look like? So this is where you describe the outcome you offer. Notice that I said “the outcome.” It’s not time yet to talk about your process – your seven-step program or your award-winning workshop or your expertise in accounting or law or whatever. In fact, the promised land is not about you at all. It’s about them.

It’s the result people get when they hire you, buy from you or use your services. And again the more you use specific, sensory language the more you’ll attract people who want, need, just have to have the outcome you offer.

What is your path from the pickle to the promised land? Now you get to offer your product or service as the vehicle that will take them from where they’ve been to where they want to be. And really, you don’t have to say much about this. Details come later.

Keep your introduction pithy. The goal here is not to make a sale. The goal is to attract attention, generate interest, make those perfect-for-you-people lean in and want more. The deeper conversation comes later; your introduction lays the groundwork for it.

You know what a turn-off it is when you meet someone at a conference or networking event and they’re all, “Buy my stuff.” So don’t be that person. Keep it light. This is the time to open a relationship, not close a sale.

You’re probably already thinking about how this would work for you, yes? Here’s an example that I might use:

“A lot of business owners and professionals stand up at a meeting like this with sweaty palms and red faces, and stammer out some awkward stuff about their work. Imagine having the right words to introduce yourself easily and confidently, so that you naturally attract people who are perfect clients for you. I’m Catherine Johns. I coach entrepreneurs and executives to talk about their work in a way that pulls people in. So they leave an event with actual business instead of a pile of business cards. Let’s talk about how I can help you make the most of your networking.”

The business owners and professionals are my people. Sweaty palms and so on are their pickle.

Having the right words, confidently attracting people – that’s the promised land. My coaching is the path. And at about 30 seconds, the whole thing is pithy.

You can use the Px5 format for a stand-up introduction, or with a few subtle shifts in language and tone, it works for a one-on-one conversation. And if you have more time, say at a networking meeting where each person gets a minute, you can flesh out each part a little bit.

Okay, your turn. Post a comment and give us your Px5 introduction. People, Pickle, Promised Land, Path – and keep it Pithy!