“What do you do?‘ is a common enough question, yet it always seems to take some people by surprise. The question either puts people on the spot and they freeze, or it engenders a lengthy discussion on the process of what they do rather than the essence of their job or career. Either response will lose the attention and even respect of your audience. Classes, coaching, or just a couple of tips can help.
You know the question, prepare the answer ahead of time. Think of ways to relay your message beyond the “I do this, then I do that.” There are various tools that can help expand and focus what you do and how you describe it. Maybe you need more descriptive words, maybe better diction so your are more easily understood, maybe you are painfully aware of the dreaded vocalized pause – that umm. A personal communication coach can get you started and give you the tools you need to improve your vocabulary, practice voice diction and take a moment to pause and regroup before you continue on with your thoughts. They can also teach you ways to convey what you are saying confidently and with purpose.
Come on, Smile
In order to come across professionally, you need to be in control to capture the attention of the person or group that you are speaking with. Learn to engage your audience (from a small cocktail group to an auditorium size audience). Control includes taking charge of the tone of your voice, inflection, pitch, emotions and body language. Remember how your mother nagged you to stand up straight? Still applies. Stand up, loosen your arms and gesture rather than cross your arms or flail around too much. And yes, smile, it actually goes a long way in audience engagement.
If you have something to say, come right out and say it. Getting too caught up with details of your work can be boring to others and cause them to tune you out. A coach from sites like Noomii life coach directories can help you pinpoint what is important and special about your work and convey your passion clearly and objectively.
Whether you’re talking to one person or a thousand, making eye contact with your audience is crucial. Often, engaging audience members with your eyes is just as important as the words you speak, so you want to practice addressing the individuals personally as you talk. If you can’t bear the thought of looking anyone in the eye as you talk to a larger group – simply focus on foreheads. It looks like you are making eye contact, but you are not, and that can help as you get used to delivering your message.
You may be excited and in such a rush to get your point across that you talk over the other party or parties in your group. Everyone gets to have their say and being a respectful conversationalist comes with being a good listener. it’s okay if you don’t make your point right away. Even if you miss the chance to say your briliiant respote, it’s better to be considered a good listener. If you still have something to add to the conversation, you can do so once they’ve finished.
Look at what you do as a part of a bigger picture. For instance a DMV employee may grouse that all she does is process papers. Or she can look at the bigger picture of what she is involved in. Suddenly she is instrumental in getting new drivers on the road – an American rite of passage. A communication coach can also help you address a room full of executives and give you tips on how to relay a story in an interesting way. Emotion, certain inflections in your voice and solid material can engage and motivate your audience.
As you go about your busy life between work, home and social functions, really think about what you are doing; make mental or real notes, create your story. So when someone asks what do you do? You not only have the answer, you may even convince them that you have a really fabulous career.
As a corporate trainer in speech and writing, Catharine Bramkamp tries very hard not to correct people during their overly long elevator speeches. To enhance your own abilities there are groups to join like Toastmasters, or you can find help through the Noomii life coach directory.