Charles Baudelaire once said, “Anybody, as long as he knows how to be amusing, has a right to talk about himself”. Orson Welles advised that “Nobody who takes on anything big and tough can afford to be modest”. Anti-tax agitator Vivien Kellems was quick to proclaim, “Of course I’m a publicity hound. Aren’t all crusaders? How can you accomplish anything unless people know what you are trying to do?”
Face it. If you want to succeed in just about anything, you need to get your name out there. Publicity does not have to be national in scope. It can be as local as a conversation with a neighbor, but a lot of people are not comfortable with those types of conversations. Few of us want to be perceived as arrogant and I doubt any of us wants to be regarded as dull or tedious in conversation. Similarly, I am sure we all know people who are so full of their own sense of self-importance that all they can do is talk about themselves even though they have little to say that really has any merit.
Self-promotion requires that we perform a balancing act. We need to have something to promote and we need to have an appropriate audience. If potential customers do not know what we have to offer, they really don’t know how they can give us business. If we are not willing to talk about what we have achieved, it is unlikely that we can use those achievements to further ourselves. A person can offer the greatest product, or service, or idea but may never turn that product or idea or service into success if the right people in the marketplace do not hear about it.
How then can a person feel comfortable talking about himself or herself? How can “I did this” conversations be meaningful for everyone in the conversation? Here are seven suggestions for anyone who has trouble talking about themselves.
Know Your Audience: If a person has no possible use for your product, service or idea, he or she probably cannot benefit from it. That means that he or she probably does not need to hear all about your successes. That does not mean that you should stop self-promoting. You want the other person to know what you do for a living and to think of you in that context.
Accordingly, you need to find a common ground with your audience. If you are an insurance salesperson talking to an avid scrapbooker, and you happen to be a scrapbooker, too, focus the conversation on scrapbooking. Make a connection with your audience so that when they think of insurance, there will be a connection between you, the insurance salesperson, and scrapbooking. The scrapbooker may never need to buy insurance from you, but he or she may be a great source of referrals.
Listen Before You Promote: Take an interest in the people with whom you are speaking before you share your personal successes. Learn about their successes and how you might complement them. When you self-promote, make it relevant to the experience of the people with whom you are speaking. Self-promotion is not about bragging. Rather, it is about making yourself relevant to the business or professional needs of others.
Be Sincere: If you feel that you have something to offer another person, be sincere about it. Don’t struggle to find a way to sell ice makers to Eskimos. Look for real connections that will benefit the person or people with whom you are speaking and educate them about those connections. If you feel that your audience really cannot benefit from what you have to say or what you have to offer, move on to other topics. Remember that you are only boring if you become a bore so never self-promote to a disinterested audience.
Don”t Apologize: Either your audience is interested in what you have to say or it is not. Don’t be embarrassed when you talk about yourself or your business. Don’t be apologetic. Just be sensitive to the body language and reaction of your audience. If you are giving a monologue instead of engaging in dialogue, you probably do not have the right audience and you probably do sound dull, tedious, arrogant or worse.
Be Interested: Sometimes the best form of self-promotion is found in taking an interest in the achievements of the person with whom you are speaking. You can self-promote just by being a good listener. If you want people to remember you, being the person who actually listened and offered good feedback may be the best way. Just make sure that you let the other person know enough about you that they can call on you when they have business for you.
Don’t Overdo it: Always remember that random conversations are not sales meetings. When someone asks what you have been doing, offer a ten second capsule summary and not a detailed report. As long as the other person knows the basics, he or she can ask questions if there is an interest.
Be Sensitive: Don’t talk about your successes with people you know to be going through personal rough patches of their own, unless your successes can help the other person to get over their own problems. Self-promotion should capture the interest of the audience — not bring the audience further down by comparison.
How do you let people know what you have to offer? Are you comfortable talking about yourself?