And now this:
I love this video because Tommy's got such a fantastic sense of humour, but also because it reminds me of how differently people will understand what you do when they're not coming from your perspective. The more you can get outside your own head, the better you can tell your story so your target audience can understand you.
But how do you gain that point of view? My magic formula for keeping a fresh perspective in mind involves making the most of networking events and any other time you're giving your elevator pitch.
Listen. As you introduce yourself, listen to the questions your contact has about what you do. What wasn't clear to him? Did you use lingo that he didn't catch? I recently mentioned to someone that I was working on a copyediting contract, and she said, "I don't know what that means. Are you a writer or what?" As you listen to a wide variety of people interact with your description of what you do, you'll also start to notice what the common threshold is for how much you need to explain.
Watch. Is your contact riveted or tuning out? Does she seem confident? Confused? Is she desperately trying to catch the eye of someone across the room? Also watch for body language. Crossed arms or legs, rubbing one's neck or head, or lack of eye contact often indicate discomfort, so you may be using terms or describing ideas that she isn't familiar with. Introduce a helpful metaphor or a simpler explanation, and watch to see if her expression changes.
Ask. Try Common Ground Questions: the kind you could ask anyone, in any line of work.
"What do you enjoy most about your work?"
"Tell me about your office space/colleagues/last business trip!"
"What sorts of clients do you generally work with?"
"How are you hoping to grow professionally this year?"
Very often, I'll find that these questions reveal what the person you're chatting with sees as similarities with your company. They'll start to make connections on their own, and you'll hear them saying something like, "You know, this part of my job sounds like it's similar to that part of YOUR job." Then you notice how they see what you do.
Et voilà! You've just unlocked a totally different way of looking at your work. Now you can use those insights to describe your business in fresh and creative ways.