Hardly anyone likes to answer this:
So…what do you do?
Here’s me after you ask, during a polite birthday-of-your-boyfriend-party—or worse, a network meeting: Eh…stammer…suddenly looking for an answer-postponing snack…good question.
Deep inhale…sitting up straight to rouse courage…I’m a writer.
Which is about the worst thing to say if you don’t wanna go there, because it inevitably leads to ever more complicated questions, like the understandable query: What do you write?
Somehow I can converse about almost anything, from bumblebees to the situation in Syria to the best ways of plucking your eyebrows, but wrapping up what I actually love most I find nerve-wracking, weirdly enough.
But I’m not. So I stumble my way out of this common and awkward social dance. After which my inner critic whispers tssss…you should known better by now. Over the last decade, I’ve been bombarded with the belief that it’s essential to have that thirty seconds pitch ready like a gun in a cowboy’s belt. Business blogs, networking gurus and business plan templates insisted: you must be able to say Who You Are and What You Offer in an elevator ride space of time.
I never could. And felt bad about it.
I realize this pitch-fever wasn’t limited to work or business: who are you-one sentence-go! has become a cultural side effect of everything speeding up. Through social media, we’ve all become experts at telling the most epic story of all time: who we are. We have become so good at it that at times, you’d almost believe it.
Now here’s how truth works for me: I could hear a hundred things that aren’t true for me and just one that ís, and that single one has the power to knock the other hundred down.
It’s how I recognize innerpreneurs.
Marie Forleo, another one of my favourite innerpreneurs, recently vlogged on pitch, basically claiming she’s been doing just fine without one. I felt relieved and empowered.
It made me realize this: that others might need our pitch more than we do.
I remembered my grandmother’s trouble in explaining to her friends and family what (the heck) I was doing in life. Anthropology didn’t make a lot of sense to my grandparents—after the ceremony where I received my M.A., my gentle and wise grandfather came up to me, all dressed up and holding a glass of wine saying “I’m not exactly sure what you did, but I’m very proud of you for doing it.”
Yoga events, my next field of business, didn’t make much sense to them either. But when, for a brief moment in my twenties, I worked as a model, they caught on like sparks. I did something they could actually picture—and when I saw them talking about it, they seemed almost relieved.
I’ll still drop the occasional pitch to give the outside world a similar picture, but I’m officially retiring from believing that I have to drum up anything about myself or what I do in one sentence.
How much more fun is the prospect of actually meeting another being and having a fresh, customized conversation about what you do? Just think about it.
Getting a pre-fab elevator pitch from someone can feel like getting slapped in the face with a piece of social plastic (I know you’ve been there). Someone who takes the time to tune into the reality of themselves, you, and the situation, is a moment of true connection.
Who needs a stuffy elevator ride when you can stand in the ever-changing fresh meadow of nowness?
Edelweiss power to the pitch.
What do you think about my revelation? Do you struggle with being brief about What You Do? Or has a pitch worked magic for you? Improve or lose? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
Author: Geertje Couwenbergh
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: by Ashley Baker, via the author