Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What do you do?

For me, this is just one of the most important things I could ever get right myself and the thing that I get recurrently wrong. So, as a result, I threw myself into studying this to try and understand how to position and introduce myself well, how to answer the question “What do you do?” in any environmental context.

Some people call this elevator statement, some people call this positioning. Basically, what are the words that go with the business card? As the business card is given to someone, what words are coming out of your mouth?

So, the first thing I’ve realised is, for me personally, because I’m, I guess I’m a bit of a synaptic, organic, creative, destructive, all over the place person, I don’t want to be boxed down to say these words when I give the business card, but as a result, I’m not being consistent.

Every time I turn up, I’m not necessarily nailing what I want to achieve and I’m not necessarily creating the outcome I want, and that’s what forced me into the study of this as such an important idea. I don’t want to be boxed in, but I have to be a little bit more structured and organised.

Three Reasons

I think there are three reasons why you would bother to tell someone what you do. Now, there’s obviously going to be more than three, but these are the three that I think are critical.

Be Remembered

The first thing is I want to be remembered. I want you to know who I am. And I see people put photos on business cards in an attempt to be memorable. Now, it’s my opinion that that’s a bad move, but that’s just my opinion. The reason why I think it’s a bad move is that I think if you suck so much in your meeting that it takes a photo of you to be remembered, you need to work on how you introduce yourself. And I just say that so that you know where I stand on that.

Be Understood

So, the second thing is I want to really be understood, which means I don’t kind of understand myself first. So, a big part of this is for you to achieve some clarity around what exactly it is you do and how it’s unique or differentiated from other people.

Be Recommended

How you understand me, is key to the third part, which is about business. Honestly, for me, that is what it’s about. It’s “I want to be recommended”.

So, if you remember me, understand me and recommend me, we’re done. The whole introduction has served its purpose.


  1. hey matt,

    thought provoking blog. interesting your first bullet addresses the 'who are you?' question under the veil of 'what do you do?'

    i think there is much unsaid in this. the old adage BE-DO-HAVE applies. the central tenet of thought leaders is who you are and the natural expression of self thru what you do.

    perhaps the question behind the question is really 'who are you?' not in a caped crusader sense but in a truly thought leader sense - does your vocation reflect your authentic self?

    dennis roberts

  2. Hi Matt,

    I can relate completely to the notion of not wanting to be 'boxed in'!

    What I do has different meanings in a variety of contexts; I often feel I need to elaborate to provide the right angle. How do you deal with that while being consistent?

    In terms of memorability, I also agree; a photo on a business card isn't going to do the trick here.

    Having said that, adding something to make you memorable does help.

    If you meet a lot of people at a congress you do end up with dozens of business cards; I often struggle to remember who is who if I don't double check by visiting the website.

    I'm a media producer and I specialise in online video and mobile content. My card should probably read something like 'director', but so does everyone else's.

    So I put ' that dutch fella' followed by a one line description of what my company does on my business card.

    This does two things:

    1. Gets people to have a chuckle when they receive my card.

    2. Helps people remember me; people pick up my accent, and by reminding people of that they can picture me again.

    Thanks for your great blog Matt!