We asked Hera Hub D.C member, Maggy Sterner, to share some quick tips on just how to respond should you find yourself trapped in an elevator with one or two strangers traveling between building floors. 

Four words that drive a dagger into the hearts of small business owners: “What do you do?”.

It can be asked anywhere: in an elevator, in line at the supermarket, at a networking event, or while you’re getting a haircut.

You hear those words and your hair catches fire, your heart starts to pound, and you worry about “tooting your own horn” or “sounding full of yourself.”


When you can describe what you do from your heart – not your head – you’ll connect deeply with your ideal clients and they’ll know you’re the one for them. When you know what you really do, you’ll always say the right words.

The way to stay grounded when you say what you do is by having an elevator pitch ready to go when you need it.

Keep it simple

I use a four-step formula with my clients to help them craft their elevator pitches. Your pitch should answer basic questions: What problem do you solve? What’s your business? Who do you serve? What benefits do your clients get from working with you?

Follow these steps and you’ll have an authentic, conversational way to talk about yourself when you only have a moment to make a connection.

1. Start with a question or a “You know…?” statement. This gets you grounded in what you’re going to say next. You are the answer to the problem that plagues them, and they don’t even know it yet. When you say the words that they say to themselves, it’s as if you’re reading their minds. For example, my ‘you know’ is: “You know how you freak out when you have to introduce yourself to a roomful of people?” or “You know how people sometimes look confused when you tell them what you do?

2. Say your name and what you do. It’s super simple. Don’t overcomplicate it. I say, “I’m Maggy Sterner and I’m a brand and business coach.” Think of this part as the barber’s pole hanging outside of your business: it’s easily recognizable and everyone knows what you offer.

3. Say who you help and how. Short. And. Sweet. Modify it for your audience. I say: “I help small business owners discover what they’re really selling and find the words to describe it courageously, out loud and online.” For nonprofits, I say, “I help nonprofits craft mission statements in plain English so everyone can understand why the organization exists and how it helps others.”

4. End with a kicker. This is where you get to blow people’s minds a little. Say what your real job is or what you really do. It can be a metaphor or a clever job title or some combination. I say, “My real job is to be your brand courage coach. When we’re done, you’ll know what you do and be able to stand for it courageously, online and out loud.

Ready, set, go tell someone what you do.

About Maggy Sterner

Maggy Sterner is a brand and business coach. She helps small businesses and nonprofits discover the essence of their brand then find simple words to describe it, out loud and online. Get Maggy’s free elevator pitch template herethen go forth and Live Your Superpower ®

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