We have all been there: you meet someone, and he asks “So, what do you do?” Now the dilemma opens up: if I say I’m the CEO, I sound like a snob, if I don’t I sound like a coward. Here’s how to answer it right.
First off, the basic rule is that you never volunteer the fact that you are the CEO, and that you say so only when you are asked your role in the company. After all, you meet people either for business or pleasure. When you are meeting someone in the business world, you want to promote the company you manage, not yourself. When you are meeting someone you would like to have a friendship with (or something more), you should promote yourself as a person, and not your job. The only people who care about you because of that big CEO title you have under the name on your business card, are the people you should try to avoid as much as possible.
Here is how you should go about answering the intimidating question.
- Say the following, textually: “I work for a company called x that [a cool slogan].” If the company is a start up, you could say “I’m building” instead of “I work for.” The cool slogan is the most important thing in the interaction. You want to generate curiosity about what you do, without giving it away. For instance, if your company does SEO, you can say “a company that helps entrepreneurs make their products stand out online.” If you make athletic equipment, you “help athletes get in shape.” You get the point.
- If you do this right, you will inevitably be asked more details about what your company does. Still, be a little vague, but give away the gist of it. Remember that even if it’s just an introduction, you are selling your company. Again, don’t say what you do at the company, but make it sound like you call the shots in a subtle way. For instance, in the case of the SEO company, you could say, “If you have a website you’d like to improve, I can have it analyzed and then we’ll sit down and talk about what we can do for you.” With this, you give the impression that you can both have people do things for you, but that you are not above everyone.
- If asked what’s your role at the company, you are now allowed to say you are the CEO! Do this as if you thought he knew this from the beginning, and you’ll sound more natural and confident about your position.
If you are never asked what your role is, then you don’t say anything. When you exchange business cards, he will know and think you are the most confident and humble person he met all day.
Do you have a specific way you like to introduce yourself? Share it in the comments below. Don’t have the confidence to pull this off? Read my article about how to gain confidence, or how to fake it.
Giordano Bruno d’Elia is an “Under 30” entrepreneur and CEO based in London, UK. He and his team are building Finest Travels, a company that promises it will “bring back the lost charm of traveling.” He blogs about building the company at www.giordanob.com.