Maybe you own a business. Or you work for someone else. Or you run a non-profit agency. You need to talk about what you do and why somebody should engage you or hire you or donate to your cause.

This comes up at structured networking meetings of course, where everyone has 30 seconds to do their “elevator speech.”

And, “What do you do?” is very often the first question people ask in social settings. At a party, a class reunion or a neighborhood barbecue, it’s likely someone will wonder about your work.

How do you respond?

We’re talking about what’s often called “the elevator speech,” although I’ve gotten away from that language. 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 keep it light. And to vary what they say, depending on who’s listening.

Here’s a guide; it’s a good way to do that.

Who are the people you serve?

It may seem counterintuitive, but you ought to start talking about your work by talking about who you 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 with the self-oriented spiel.

Maybe you’re a generalist; you have more than one category of client. Choose one anyway, for the purpose of introducing yourself. You’ll have more impact if you go narrow than if you say, “Anyone can use my help.”

The main thing is this: when you make it about them instead of you, you draw people in and they want more.

What is the pickle they’re in?

 This is where you describe the challenge 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?

This is where you describe the outcome you offer.

Yes, “the outcome.” It’s not time yet to talk about your process – your seven-step program, your award-winning workshop or your legal expertise. In fact, the Promised Land is not about you at all. It’s about them.

Paint a picture of 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, absolutely have to have what you’ll help them get.

What is your path from the pickle to the Promised Land?

Now you can mention your product or service as the best way for them to get from where they’ve been to where they want to be. And you don’t have to say much about this.

In fact, you shouldn’t say much about this. Your goal here is not to make a sale. Your 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 a meeting 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.

Got any proof?

It’s a quick case study, an award you won, or maybe you quote a client who got great results. We’re not looking for a notarized document here. Just a quick comment that backs up what you’re saying

You’re probably already thinking about how this would work for you. At least I hope you are. Here’s an example that I might use:

“You know how business owners stand up at a meeting like this with sweaty palms and red faces; they stammer out some awkward stuff about what they do. Imagine having the right words to introduce yourself easily and confidently, so you naturally attract people who are perfect clients for you. I’m Catherine Johns. I coach entrepreneurs to talk about their work in a way that pulls people in. It can be a big change: A client told me now that she has the right words to say, she feels like she discovered gold within herself. And, her business is growing. Let’s talk about how I can help you, so you leave events with actual business, instead of a pile of business cards.”

The business owners are my people. Sweaty palms and so on are their pickle. (Notice the specific, sensory language.) Having the right words, confidently attracting people – that’s the Promised Land. My coaching is the path. A client’s experience of discovering gold in herself? The proof.

You can use the Px5 format for a stand-up introduction, and if you have more time, you can flesh out each part a little bit.

Or, with a few subtle shifts in language and tone, it works for a one-on-one conversation too.

Okay, it’s your turn.  Post a comment below and introduce yourself.