Most women and men wilt at the thought of going to a networking mixer. The idea of meeting new people, answering the inevitable question of, “So… what do you do?” is daunting. The vast majority of us – extroverts included – would prefer not to have to engage in self-promotion.
Well, too bad. Self-promotion, in all its forms, is shown by research and common sense to be the most effective strategy for getting ahead – especially for women!
The problem most of us have when confronted with these “cold” networking situations is that the image in our mind of how we’re supposed to promote ourselves looks like a used car salesman. We naturally resist objectifying ourselves and don’t want to “pitch” ourselves (or anything) to a reluctant audience. No one likes being sold unless they’re ready to buy – and at networking events, no one is buying!
Selling yourself feels icky…
So here’s the secret. Don’t sell yourself. Or your business.
Not “selling” yourself can be equally difficult if you’re feeling desperate, however. For entrepreneurs you sometimes feel desperate to land a new customer. If you’re looking for a job, you feel desperate to find someone looking to hire you.
The reality is that at a networking event, you are much more likely to find some who will refer you to customers and hiring managers. And they’re not going to refer you if you’re desperate and selling yourself too hard.
Quite a conundrum.
Conquering the conundrum of self-promotion
So what do you do? There are many strategies for authentic self-promotion, actually, but I’d like to tell you about a little secret I’ve discovered while performing personal brand audits for entrepreneurs and professionals alike, I always find one single thing that everyone can do more of to be authentically promoting themselves – and feel good about it! This technique always gives you a natural and authentic way to talk about yourself, and your business, in a very positive light, and almost always encourages others to lean in and say, “tell me more!” If it doesn’t stimulate an interesting discussion that let’s you strut your stuff enjoyably, then you know the person you’re talking to can’t help you, so you don’t feel bad saying, “nice to meet you,” and moving on.
The strategy is simple. Don’t advocate for yourself, advocate for a big, important, interesting, not-obvious idea – an idea you care about a lot and which positions you and your business goals exactly the way you want to be seen.
I call these special, naturally promoting, ideas “big ideas” because they are more than just simple opinions that sound good in sound-bite form. They do make great sound-bites, but because they’re also designed to attract exactly the kind of people you need – customers, referrals/sponsors and even media opportunities – they are naturally self-promoting.
Show, don’t tell…
The power of big idea self-promotion, however, runs more deeply. You’re not telling people you’ve got talent, you’re demonstrating it. You’re not selling yourself, you’re advocating something that matters to you, and so you exude an authentic passion that’s very attractive to others. They’re more likely to be “infected” by your enthusiasm and want to work with you and help you.
It feels really good to share your big idea and discover people who get turned on by it like you do. Really good. You’ll find yourself developing friendships and having meaningful conversations at “cold” networking events. You might even start to enjoy them!
I’ve recently created a video series for entrepreneurs and a webinar for corporate leaders to help you understand your big idea opportunity for networking, personal branding and even media exposure (social media and otherwise). I’d be honored if you’d watch them and share your big idea with me!
Have you ever noticed how putting big ideas “out there” has attracted people to you? Have you been able to turn that into a marketing or self-promotion strategy? If so, please share your experience in comments!
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