I attend a number of conferences and business mixers where business owners and executives introduce themselves in both formal “speed dating” roundtable styles, and casual over-cocktails style.

The challenge is always the same: How do you make yourself memorable in that short window, and avoid going down the typical, forgettable “Name, Company Name, Title, Role and Duties” road.

I have a suggestion: think like a funeral home director.

If you ask anyone what happens at a funeral home, they pretty much know. But if you ask funeral directors about their business, they really don’t want to talk about the “What”, because  the “What” is a little heavy. They strongly prefer to talk about the “Why”. Because “Why” speaks to benefits, people, connections, emotions, and empathy. The real benefit of a funeral home is not simply the care of the deceased. Indeed, it’s the care of the surviving family and loved ones.

This very same “Why” works for any business owner or employee when you are introducing yourself in a myriad of settings –  a conference, networking event, national sales meeting (meeting fellow employees for the first time), and especially with prospective customers or even when speaking with competitors. Why you do what you do, is so much more interesting than what you do.

Google founder Larry Paige, often relays the story of crossing paths with an employee in the men’s washroom and when Larry asked him what he does at Google, the employee, who was a Gmail engineer, responded “Saving people from Outlook, one user at a time”. So much more powerful than “I’m a UI designer for Gmail”.

Want more proof? Draw up a sheet with three columns:  Job, What and Why. Now write in funeral director on the first line.  The “What“ column will look very procedural from accepting the deceased all the way to the burial. And while these services might be important in the middle of making arrangements with a family, they aren’t interesting or relevant to someone not in that life-stage moment. Now think of the Why column. Caring for families. Providing a safe, dignified and comforting setting for both the deceased and the family. To concentrate on creating an environment for generating and sharing positive memories. These are the words and characteristics that stimulate emotion and connection – especially to anyone outside the industry.

Now try it with your job on the next line. You’ll see the same power of “Why” for  an insurance provider, local café owner, sales rep for a chemical company, first responder, lawn care company owner, software designer, educator, bank CEO, and yes, funeral director.

The “Why” of your company and you is so much more interesting than the “What”. Write up that list before your next conference, or networking event. My bet is you’re going to have a more interested audience and engaging conversation.


The Ganon Group offers communication coaching for executives and employees across all departments: C-Suite Leadership, Sales, Customer Experience, Technical / Product Development, to improve their communication and presentation techniques. We believe everyone can “up” their game when it comes to communicating initiatives and ideas within the organization, outside to new prospects, to existing clients, or to outside media and trade organizations. www.theganongroup.com


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