Self Promoter or Braggart? Hmm…

Self Promoter or Braggart? Hmm…

For the first time in far too many months, I went to an evening networking event last week. I almost talked myself out of it. I was on little sleep (standard operating procedures these days) and had a very stressful workday, so I was physically tired, mentally fatigued and emotionally drained. Perfect constitution for interacting with other human beings, right?

By the time the evening was over, I was so happy that I had not let myself reason away why I should drive north instead of south for my evening commute. I had a wonderful opportunity to re-connect with a handful of old friends and make new ones, but our topic of conversation has stayed with me since Wednesday night and I knew there was at least one blog’s worth of discussion.

The subject tossed out before a dozen or so business women and entrepreneurs in attendance was… how to be a better self-promoter.  I was immediately attracted to this topic during promotion of the event because if there’s one thing I struggle with at events and group interaction, it’s promoting myself.  Oh, I’ll have no trouble telling you how awesome this friend I have is as an editor or a new book from a great author pal of mine but do I easily volunteer that I have a book of my own out there? Hell, no.  And just why is that? This ended up being more the topic than strategies for being a better self-promoter at the networking event.

You see, what I quickly found out as we began going around the room and introducing ourselves and sharing our own self-promotion “advice” was that regardless of our age, industry, ethnicity or background, every woman in that group said the same thing generally — we all feel really uncomfortable touting ourselves!!  And we all acknowledged seeing men in our path have a much easier time with this. So why was that?

Once our group informally recognized that none of us would be a wealth of self-promotion confidence to shower everyone else, we stepped back and examined this shared “affliction” that had just been exposed during the meeting.   What was the root cause of it? Some admitted feeling awkward selling themselves so hard but had no trouble promoting their causes or others. For my own circumstances, I pointed to good old-fashioned Midwestern Guilt as the culprit, that I was always taught that when we went out of our way to talk about ourselves personally or professionally we were being boastful, a showy braggart, and that we should be more humble and keep our victories and great news to ourselves.

Hmm. I had not really studied that foundation by which I operated so closely before. How do you sell a book if people don’t know about it? How do you let people know what new things you’re working on if you don’t take the time to tell them? And what chance would you have of them remembering you if you left them with nothing to take with them?

I even had a slick little memento in the form of a glossy two-sided bookmark that had been a big hit during my launch party and subsequent book fair events. I carried a thick stack of bookmarks bound by a rubberband and tucked away in my purse everywhere I went. I shared with my networking friends with embarrassment that when I exited the theater bathroom to head to my movie, I’d contemplated leaving behind a few bookmarks on the sink counter.  At the bookstore on the back table amid the flyers about upcoming events, I considered leaving a small stack of bookmarks. Honestly, so many different places, the idea sprang to mind. But how many of those promotional opportunities had I taken advantage of?

None. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

Why was that, some of the ladies asked. I attributed some of it to that Midwestern Guilt. Another part of it was fear that I’d get a nasty email or call from theater or restaurant managers for leaving behind my sales materials. As one savvy attendee pointed out, what’s the worst that could happen? They throw a few bookmarks out. Big deal. Someone else might pick one up before then.

So it had to be more than just humble teachings and this “good kid’s” fear of getting her hand slapped. The discussion turned to the fact that all of us had one thing in common — we were all women. And our male counterparts didn’t seem to have the same trepidation stepping forward and pitching their greatness whenever the opportunity afforded it.

For the rest of the evening, we mingled in smaller groups, sharing our individual challenges and tried to offer solutions and resources to each other. And you’ll be happy to hear I gave out bookmarks to every woman there, two ladies even asked for extra ones! But the general consensus as we parted ways was that we needed to drop whatever fears, anxiety or old recordings in our head might be holding us back from promoting ourselves and our endeavors.

I’m curious. For those of you reading — both men and women — how difficult is self-promotion for you? I invite you to weigh in on the topic. And if it isn’t difficult, what are your strategies for overcoming any obstacles that might try to thwart your doing so? And for those of you who struggle with self-promotion like me and my friends, why do you think that is? Do you think there is a gender-related connection here, that our culture (particularly here in America) is more accepting of a confident man than a confident woman? That perhaps we as women may allow that general sentiment to discourage us?

Now think about your own situation and your “bookmark” or other tool that you could use to leave a memorable impression, perhaps beyond the reach of a traditional business card. How could you get people to remember you or specifically what you are in need of promoting? And what can any of us do to feel more comfortable about promoting ourselves when there is a need to spread the word about our past work or current projects?

Feel free to leave comments here. I may do a little AudioBoom podcast on the subject soon. Stay tuned about that, but in the meantime, please leave your feedback!  I welcome it. 😀  Thanks.

And a happy Sunday to you.  x ~ chris

4 Comments

  1. Amazing piece Chris. I think there’s a line to be walked with self promo – the balance of too much vs too little. I honestly think I’ve never found the balance yet and may never will, but it’s fun trying it out. I’m facing my first book signing event in two weeks, which will be largely about selling myself to those unfamiliar with my work. I’ve got some bookmarks printed with contact details, as well as some of my poetry to give away on postcards. Hopefully that will be something people remember.

    On social media I see too many people who do nothing but put up ads for their books, amidst endless parades of retweets for other authors. So much of it is automated and becomes just background noise – I’d much rather engage with the person’s personality and explore their work that way. By all means, a few book ads every so often, but I want to see meaningful content and an actual person attached to it. That’s always the balance I try to strike, with varying degrees of success!

    • chriskuhn

      Thanks, Cameron – for sharing your thoughts here and passing along the link to your social media followers. I appreciate it. I agree there truly is a balancing act being performed but I’m curious — do you see it being performed more frequently and perhaps more easily by men than women? It certainly seems that way from over here. You will be fantastic at your first book signing. Can’t wait to hear all about it! 🙂 I couldn’t agree more about some of the ways social media platforms are misused so that it becomes white noise many of us tune out, going completely against the objective! Good luck, Cameron, with your big March event — you’ll knock ’em dead, I just know it. And thanks again for the continued support always. x ~ chris

      • To be honest, the bulk of what I see in the romance genre is largely women, so I’m not sure of the gender divide – though in the flesh it may be very different. I see female authors marshalling entire ‘street teams’ to promote their work for them, though that seems to have it’s own pitfalls – drama, backbiting and what have you. It’s why I do mine myself, and am endlessly greatful for any retweets/help I get.

        Thank you for your wonderful words and support too 🙂

        • chriskuhn

          I suppose the romance genre being so heavily populated with female authors is probably a different situation than the general business world. But I hear what you’re saying completely. There is definitely an advantage to keeping hold of the reins all to yourself. And you’re welcome. I wouldn’t say good things about you and your work if I didn’t think you were a wonderful writer. 🙂 ~ ck

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