Two Easy Times to Stand Out And Get Noticed (Without Being Obnoxious)
We get it. Because of knee-jerk market trends and shifting workplaces, we need to vigilantly develop our personal brands if we want to build strong, sustainable careers. After all, the only thing we control is our own reputations. We see people every day getting ahead, and making a name for themselves, for expertise we ourselves possess.
We know what we should do, but that doesn’t mean we like it. Self-promotion feels hard and can go against our core values. It’s also inconvenient when our days are already packed with work.
This is the message I heard loud and clear after I posted my experience getting comfortable with self-promotion a month ago. You have to love social media for providing instant feedback on what lands, and this story landed all over the world. A month later, it still popped up as the #4 story on Forbes.com. I’m thinking there’s a nerve there getting hit.
It seems that a lot of us are in a constant battle to be smart and assertive about our capabilities, but not obnoxiously self-aggrandizing or arrogant. (If it weren’t hard enough, just for fun, social media turned it into an X game.)
In the last article, I discussed how you can reframe self-promotion to be about idea promotion instead. Find a cause you’re passionate about that relates to your work, whether it’s advancing women, overturning an industry practice, or creating process efficiencies. Then spend your time promoting that, and in turn, you will promote yourself as a thought leader.
Being an idea promoter is a more natural way for many professionals to put themselves out there, and create a larger platform. But it’s not the only way to self-promote. There are also ways to standout in the daily routine of your job, by making the effort to be strategically different, or a few degrees from the mean — drawing positive attention to yourself by subtly changing your approach and behavior. These acts make you more influential and engaging, and help you build that all-important executive presence.
If idea promotion isn’t your cup of tea, try these practices. After all, you’re likely engaging in these activities anyway, might as well make the effort count.
Run the Un-Hated Meeting
Study after study shows that workers feel they spend too much time in meetings (on average 5-6 hours a week, according to Microsoft research), and most meetings are considered unproductive. We don’t need a researcher to tell us this — no one goes to work on a day packed with meetings and says, “Yippee, I can’t wait to sit in meetings all day today!”
We deplore meetings because most are poorly run, organized around the wrong objectives, take too much time, and lack accountable outcomes. Typically, the attendees simply show up, giving little thought to their contributions ahead of time.
All of this meeting dysfunction creates a wide open opportunity for someone to take a different approach. If you’re running the meeting, commit to exceptional ones. Word will get around fast.
Send out clear agendas ahead of time with decision points to be made. Ask everyone to come prepared.
- Use the time together to discuss real issues, not for updating routine matters better suited for a spreadsheet. People can email updates ahead of the meeting, which participants can read on their own time.
- Change up the format, and consider ways to make them lively versus routine. Every couple of months, ask for feedback for how to improve them.
- Establish ground rules, such as no piling on or cutting others off, share the air, and no phones.
- Begin on time and end on time. Set meetings to end on the :45 so people have enough time to make it to their next meeting. If you need to go over, set up another meeting or ask (don’t assume) the group if they can extend for a few minutes.
If you’re not the one running the meeting, you can still do your part by coming prepared with your best ideas and suggestions developed ahead of time. You can also suggest some of these enhancements to your meeting, and show some leadership chops in the process.
Present with Provocateur Power
Whether you’re presenting internally to a group or externally to a large audience, these suggestions all work. Most people don’t love presenting, and it shows. It’s a rare occurrence when someone is so engaging and interesting that we enjoy their presentation. But when it happens everyone notices. This one skill can be career-making, as it plays a role in nearly every corporate function and it garners societal respect. It’s nice if you’re a professional-level speaker, but you don’t have to be. Try these guidelines and you’ll stand far above the crowd:
- Strive to be interesting first, informative second. Most corporate presentations are boring, and hug the middle ground to avoid debate or controversy. Give people something that provokes thought and debate. Start out with a provocative or strategically shocking point.
- Keep your slides to a minimum, with scant copy per slide. Better yet, use images to make people think. No one ever remembers you for your beautiful Excel spreadsheets.
- Organize your thoughts in succinct points. Lists are often helpful, i.e. “There are 4 considerations we must address today.”
- Don’t talk at people, talk with them. Ask a question early to engage in dialogue and get a feel for the room. This works for any size or type of group.
- Support your facts with stories, humor, examples, etc. The human mind only retains a small portion of the facts we receive, but remembers stories and examples adroitly.
- Practice. If you don’t have time to run through the entire presentation, practice the opening and your stories and anecdotes out loud. You need to build the muscle memory of pronouncing the words, and establish cadence and rhythm. There’s a reason that stories get better with each telling.
Have other ways to stand out at work? I’d love to hear them here or @kristihedges.
This post also appears on Forbes.com.
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