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Magnetic one-liners: how to answer the question ‘so, what do you do?’ to win supporters and advocates.

Sarah Lloyd-Hughes

A client, let’s call her Laura, represents everything I love in a leader – she’s a get-sh*t-done, problem fixer, with a massive heart and the desire to build a better world. She’s brave, she wants to leave a legacy and she’s not afraid of hard work.

But in the midst of her eagerness to create change, she struggles to communicate about what she does in a way that others really get.

Her answer to the question ‘So, what do you do?’ isn’t a bad one, but neither is it even close to representing what’s compelling about her work.

Laura has the classic problem facing so many female (and male) leaders – we’re great at doing, but we’re not so hot at explaining to others what we’re doing and why it’s so important.

This is relevant to many professional situations – your LinkedIn profile, at a networking event, your CV, your bio, or indeed any time you open your mouth to introduce yourself.

The impact? For Laura, her inability to give a succinct and magnetic answer to ‘what do you do?’reduces her ability to win clients. For others, it holds them back from being noticed for promotions and other opportunities.

I’m interested: how can we quickly and boldly frame our work and talents so that others are magnetically drawn to us?

Now, let’s distinguish this from the icky old-fashioned elevator pitch; that awkward, falsefeeling of pitching at someone before you’ve made any connection.

Every time we’re asked what do you do? there are magnetic things we can say that attract the right people to wanting to know more, spread the word about our activities, or offer help.

Yet almost universally, we’re boring, generic, vague or self-orientated.

Consider the kind of thing most of us write on our LinkedIn profiles:

  • I’m passionate about human potential (too vague, who isn’t?)
  • I run a start-up about technology, as well as being a part-time sales consultant. And I also mentor rising stars. (you’re hedging your bets and that overwhelms me. I can’t tell whether or not to connect with you. You may have a portfolio career, but you have ONE chance to get my attention. Pick your focus and go deeper.)
  • I’m a top-performing leader who’s results driven (good for you, but why should I care?)
  • Looking for connections to like-minded professionals (what can I do with that information? Who is your kind of professional? I want to hear about your quirks, your personality.)

Let’s ditch the dull and look for ways to express ourselves that are brief,personal, daring and different.

Let’s dare to magnetically draw other people towards our cause, passions or work.

The best ‘magnetic one-liners’ are not only captivating to your audience in that moment, but they get other people talking about us when we’re not there. 

I work on women’s leadership, so I’d love to create a bank of female leaders whose ideas magnetise, so that we can see them in action and learn from them. Here are my first three – who can you add?

1. “Using technology to drive meaningful change to 1 billion people.” Cindy Hoots @ Unilever

The scope of this excites me. It’s huge. It poses, rather than answers a question. And it makes me want to help. I’m in. 

2. “Let people be people & computers do the rest” – Clare Corthell

This is a great signal of Clare’s focus. It elegantly frames her expertise, her opinion and gives a great reason to be in touch. I know from this sentence that Clare is someone to help me, particularly with the ‘letting computers do the rest’ piece.

3. “I like to blow shit up. I am the Michael Bay of business.” – Cindy Gallop 

This is fun, gutsy and highly memorable. I heard about Cindy because someone quoted this tagline at me and it made me curious to look her up. Whilst it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, Cindy’s going to attract people who very much are her cup of tea.

Who else have you noticed with a magnetic one liner that highlights what they do?

And what might your magnetic one liner be? Feel free to play in the comments section, we’ll give you some feedback.

A word of advice – it’s always easier for someone else to point out to you what’s compelling about your back story and work. Someone else can see with clarity what is often blurred in complexity for you.That’s been my experience in developing my own magnetic one liner.

This is what my team and I do professionally, so drop me a note if you’d like some help.

Sarah Lloyd-Hughes

The UK’s leading inspiring speaking expert & best-selling author. Sarah Lloyd-Hughes is a multiple-award winning public speaking coach, founder of Ginger and author of “How to be Brilliant at Public Speaking” (Pearson).

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