Are You Making Your Communications Stick?“What do you do?”

It’s the question I get asked first whenever I am working as a booth babe. Attendees approach and ask “what do you do”? I’d estimate that 98% of people working in booths take that as an opportunity to talk about themselves for the next 3-5 minutes.

I can’t think of anything more dreadful. Here you are, presented with an opportunity to engage someone in a conversation that helps you learn more about THEM and you spend it talking about yourself.

I love listening to vendors talk about themselves for the first fifteen minutes when we meet.” – Said no one, ever.

It’s similar to how most vendor presentations start with the same typical sentence:

“Our company was founded in…”

As soon as I hear that phrase my first thought is how Nintendo was founded in 1889 but didn’t start making video games until the 1970′s and NO ONE CARES WHEN YOUR COMPANY WAS FOUNDED. If I want to know about your past, I’ll ask. Until then, let’s talk about the now, and how your product is going to be of value to me, my project, and my business environment. In short, let’s talk more about ME, and less about your company.

I suppose I have an advantage over most in this area. Having been the person forced to sit through some of the most boring vendor presentations on Earth I know what resonates with me.

The best vendor sales presentations do not follow a script. They don’t force me to look at slides right from the start. Instead, they start with a conversation. The slides may come later, or they may not. The conversation will focus on my needs, what I want to get from the product, etc. Then the presenters will spend time talking about how they can help, and do so without tossing jelly all over the place in the hope that something will stick.

Now that I am the person giving the presentations I want to avoid delivering the same stock material that everyone else delivers.

Consider this example. Let’s say I meet someone at a networking event, or on a speed date, and I talk about myself in the same manner as if it were a standard vendor presentation. It would go something like this:

Thomas William LaRock was founded in 1970 and specializes in data management and design. His headquarters are located in the USA with offices in Massachusetts and Colorado. He has traveled North America and Canada as well as Europe. With 6,000 followers on Twitter and a Klout score of 64 he has a global presence. Thomas has spoken with thousands of people that work for companies you may know. Using a proven methodology called the Cardiovascular System, Thomas is able to operate independently and be a solution provider by using a wide range of products (such as hands).

At six feet four inches tall Thomas stands out from the competition as a trusted resource to reach onto high shelves in his household and most grocery stores. Thomas also helps his children solve their math homework, often with just a few calculations, in order to free up time for other activities such as watching Doctor Who or chasing rabid squirrels with sticks.

How dreadful that would be for anyone to listen to, either during a presentation or at a networking event.

Contrast that response with this one:

“I help people smile more by making their jobs easier.”

Which one is likely to engage the other person to want to know more about what I do? Which one is likely to lead to a better conversation?

Four Ways To Make Your Communications Stick

When I am writing and building a presentation here are the tips I follow:

1. Know Your Audience First

If you don’t know who is in the room then you aren’t likely to know what to say to them either. Take the time to know them first. Ask them where they are from, or what they do, or why they are attending. This will enable you to help them the most.

2. Know The Value You Offer

If you don’t know your value, then you’ll find yourself rambling on and on about anything and everything until something you say makes them stop yawning. It is best to understand what it is that you have to offer. You also need to understand the difference between having a valuable skill and being able to deliver value to someone else. This point deserves its own blog post at some point.

3. Tailor Your Message

Once you know a bit about them, and assuming you also know your value, you should be able to help connect the dots from there. You can craft your message to make certain it focuses on their needs. Remember, this should be about them, not you.

4. Practice, Practice, Practice

I cannot emphasize this point enough. You need to have confidence and deliver your message in a natural way, as if you were having a conversation. Because you *are* having a conversation.

Earlier I mentioned the term “jelly”. The term is from the book The Jelly Effect: How to Make Your Communication Stick, one of my favorite books on effective communication. Author Andy Bounds talks about how he learned to communicate efficiently with others as a result of helping his blind mother since he was a boy. I re-read the book at least once a year, and leaf through it often.

I recommend that book to anyone that asks me for help on speaking, building presentations, and writing. It helps you understand that when someone asks “what do you do” your answer needs to be something of value for THEM, and not about your resume.