“So what is it you do again?” (Cue panic attack)

A woman (we’ll call her Debbie) told me this story the other day.

Debbie was meeting a new contact, the wife of a friend, for coffee. She cozied up in a chair with her latte. The sun leaned through the window, the espresso machine burbled and whirred.

Then the other woman asked the most natural next question:

“So, tell me, what is it you do again?”

Instantly, sweat sprung to her pores, her skin went clammy, her heart tripped into a frantic sprint.

Debbie hated, hated this question.

“Um…it’s hard to explain, actually…” and the more she tried, the more it felt like drowning. Her new friend peered at her over the edge of her cup, as if from the prow of a boat.

This brilliant professional does not have an acute anxiety problem, any more than any of us has.

We ALL hate this question.

And yet, it’s the one we all ask, and will ask, forever. It can send the most articulate among us into a tailspin—at a networking breakfast, on a Zoom call. In a coffee shop. We stutter and choke; words skitter away like roaches when the light flips on.

As a consultant, I spend just as much (if not more) time talking about what I do as I do doing it. And even I hate this question!

You’re told you need a “pitch”; that if you just had the perfect, snazzy, two-sentence summary, you’d be golden.

But have you tried that? Because even a clever pitch can … ring hollow.

“I help families fund their futures.”

“I help women make better decisions so they can live their best life.”

Mkay. Not bad. But.

Why does it feel so…off the shelf? And why do we still hate doing it, even when we have a pitch? Why do we die a little inside every time we say it?

You know why? Because the other part of the equation is this:

People actually don’t LIKE being pitched. And we know this because WE ALSO don’t like it, and yet, there we are, trying to do our best impression of a cool billboard.

Why are we doing this to ourselves?!

This is why, after years of doing brand work for clients in every industry, I know that regardless of your work, your pitch doesn’t start with clever. It starts with something that feels like YOU.

Therein lies the existential rub. Because to get to who you are is a different effort altogether. And it very different from writing a cute tagline (I should know; I’ve written many of them).

We think we need to pack the perfect overnight bag to pitch people all day. What if we UNpacked instead? That is the process that has worked for me and the people I’ve worked with. And yet, it’s the step that most people skip.

I’m in the midst of putting together what I’m calling the What Do You Do Workshop, or how to talk about yourself without feeling like a jackass.

It means getting to the core of what you do and why it matters. It’s foundational—and it will inform all you do, say, and offer.

And since you’re someone who actually reads emails from me (and thank you for that, btw), it’s precisely your insights I’m interested in! Screw everyone else!

So tell me this: What’s the #1 reason you HATE having to pitch yourself?

P.S. If you haven’t seen the Unmute Yourself workshop, btw, you can access it here, right now.