“What do you do?”
This was perhaps the most common question I was asked when I was visiting San Francisco for the Web 2.0 Expo/Conference. It usually took me a couple of sentences to explain what I do. If their eyes told me they didn’t get it, it took a little longer. Still, it was easier than writing a description.
When I returned, I finished up some client work and then took the time to have a good look at my self-promotional stuff, my résumé, my email templates, presentations and showcases. And I realized what was wrong. The image I presented was a blurry cloud consisting of design, user experience, some information architecture, some creative direction, mixed with workshops, presentations and showcases, skills and methods, meticulously listed as bullet-points in my résumé. If I weren’t I, even I wouldn’t know what I was doing…
The work I’ve done, my blog and my résumé give you a fair idea about what I’m capable of and what I’ve done so far. But they don’t present well what is my offer, and distracted by the designed material, you could get the impression I want to present myself as a designer.
In a first attempt I tried to roll it up backwards. I started by editing my résumé, and once I thought it was cleaned up enough, I sent it to a friend of mine who works in an advertising agency. She sent it back with one line that said it all: You want to say too much.
There I had it. She was right. I always wanted to transmit everything, to make sure my audience wouldn’t miss anything. I wanted to make sure I would qualify for any thinkable job in Web business, be it branding, strategy, IA or design. And while I was packing product-features in my own résumé, I missed the point of transmitting a concise, reduced package of information.
The average résumé is reviewed in 15 seconds. Okay, I made that one up. But it’s true none the less; the principle behind it is a good measurement. It puts me on a track: If I had a stage and 15 seconds and need to convince a lady in the audience that we are made for each other and that she must marry me, how would I sell myself? Which words would I use and how many? What kind of media would I use? How could I tell what she knew about me, or needed to know in order to make such a decision?
The stage and the marriage proposal may be metaphoric, but they aren’t too far from the real situation. My potential client has a short attention span and within this brief moment I need to show him I am worth looking at closer. Chances he will marry me are low, but perhaps he wants us to work together.
To present myself the best way I can, in relatively short time and so anyone would understand me without my physical presence, I needed to do the following:
- Get their attention and keep it
- Talk to them in a direct language, casual but business style
- Make sure they get the message
- Make sure they don’t get bored
- Which means to keep it compelling and yet not complex
- Give them a good reason to say “he’s right”
- Addressing only a few topics that describe my offer best
So what did this mean for my presentation material? It meant good bye résumé. Farewell showcase. What I needed was a single file that shows my thinking rather than making the client think. I have 15 seconds on stage and I want the audience to feel comfortable and laugh with me. I want them to listen up.
This document for potential clients needed to play both roles, one of a résumé and be a portfolio at the same time. But it shouldn’t be bloated or too complicated. I wrote down a list of notes, random thoughts that basically summarized my thinking about everything I found important: brands, marketing, advertising, direct marketing, media, communications as a whole, strategies, concepts, user experience, social networks and design. Out of these notes I developed a few thoughts with a hook. And one thing seemed to stand out above everything. It became a meta topic: honesty.
I believe honesty is what can save the future of marketing as a business. I believe this is our only chance, and it is here now. I also think it is part of my mission to make this happen. You will find my solution below as an interactive Quicktime movie, or your can watch it directly, hosted on SlideShow.