Telling vs. Selling: The Art of Self-Promotion

In any new business conversation, you have about 20 seconds to establish credibility and create enough curiosity before someone else’s mind starts to wonder. For many of us, self-promotion isn’t natural, because it’s not as simple as just talking about yourself. It’s about knowing your audience, having conversation goals and adding your accomplishments. Hence it’s a very dynamic process. One that with practice and preparation, can allow us all to succeed at the art of self-promotion.

This week on In Process: Conversations about Business in the 21st Century, (Trusted Counsel’s bi-weekly podcast show) hosts Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon of Trusted Counsel revisit a previously aired podcast from June 2016. They were joined by Debbie Stone, an executive coach and keynote speaker. She is the author of the book The Art of Self-Promotion and the founder of Novateur Partners, an executive coaching company serving lawyers, entrepreneurs, corporate leaders and the organizations in which they work.

According to Stone “At the end of the day, self-promotion and really any networking business development, is all about building relationships. When we tell stories in any part of our lives, we are building relationships. The whole idea of The Art of Self-Promotion is that it is an art. It’s the art of telling your story.”

During the course of the podcast you will learn about:

  • The distinction between self-promotion and selling yourself
  • The keys to self-promotion
  • The definition of “the jargon trap”
  • Habits to start implementing NOW to help you become more of a self-promoter
  • The differences between men and women in self-promotion

While these tips are a good starting point for self-promotion, Stone touches on many more items in the full podcast: telling vs. selling, cultural obstacles, using technical jargon, and more.

Stream the conversation in its entirety in the player below, or download it to your mobile device via iTunes. Don’t miss a single episode, subscribe to our podcast show ‘In Process Podcast’ on iTunes to receive this episode as well as future episodes to your smartphone.

(This podcast originally aired in June, 2016)






Telling vs. Selling: The Art of Self-Promotion

(c) Trusted Counsel (Ashley) LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Announcer:        It’s time for In Process, conversations about business in the 21st century, with Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon, presented by Trusted Counsel, a corporate and intellectual property law firm. For more information visit Now with in process here are Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon.

John:                 Hello, and welcome to In Process, conversations about business in the 21st century presented by Trusted Counsel, a corporate and intellectual property law firm. I’m John Monahon.

Evelyn:               And I’m Evelyn Ashley.

John:                  And we are partners in Trusted Counsel. Evelyn, today we are going to talk about The Art of Self-Promotion.

Evelyn:                Self-promotion John. How are you gonna deal with that?

John:                   I don’t know. I have my doubts. I think it’s gonna be good for me to learn a little bit more about self-promotion.

Evelyn:                 I think it’ll really be excellent actually. I think that there are some really brilliant points in our book today by our fabulous author Debbie Stone, not just really about an individualized way of promotion and selling but can go to the level of business development for any product essentially. I think it’s gonna be really, really, really helpful to our listening audience. It did put me in mind when I read the book, it put me in mind of an actor who was doing business consulting that had come to a Vistage meeting that I was in a few years ago. He basically came in and said that every interaction, not just business but every personal interaction that you have. If you put your mind to I’m on stage, it actually helps you to lean in, show more passion, do a better performance and would actually change your life for the better, because of all that positive energy that comes out of it, and the energy that you take basically for everything, which at the time I can remember being fairly cynical about his presentation. Ultimately I think it actually has some really good techniques and process in it for learning, for everything.

John:                    I know that for me self-promotion is sometimes difficult because I think of it as bragging. Debbie is very good about explaining the difference between those, and why you don’t need to apologize for that and you can get over the hump. Hopefully she’ll share some of those tips with us today. Without further ado, Debbie Stone, Debbie is an executive coach and keynote speaker. She is the author of The Art of Self-Promotion, tell your story, transform your career, and the founder of Novateur Partners, an executive coaching company serving lawyers, entrepreneurs, corporate leaders and the organizations in which they work. Prior to 2002 Debbie practiced law for 16 years and worked at Bain & Company. Debbie, welcome to the show.

Debbie:                Thank you. Glad to be here.

Evelyn:                 We are delighted to have you.

Debbie:                I’m delighted to be here.

Evelyn:                 Deb, tell us a little bit about coaching. I think the migration from the practice of law into becoming an executive coach is quite an interesting segue, so we’d like to hear a little bit about that.

Debbie:                I get asked this question all the time, because not that many people have moved from law to coaching. There are some of us, but not too many. For me it was, I always wanted to be making a difference in my clients’ lives. I knew that as a lawyer in my head, I knew I was making a difference by preparing legal documents and helping them with transactions. The part I enjoyed the most was hearing about their businesses, their goals, the challenges they were facing, and helping them move from A to B. Coaching has allowed me to jettison the part that I didn’t want to do anymore, which was reading indemnification clauses and things like that, and really focusing on the part that [crosstalk 00:04:14] I could feel in my heart was helping.

Evelyn:                 Interesting. Was that an easy segue?

Debbie:                It leveraged all of what I had done before. Easy, I would not say, no. I don’t think any time you make a career change is easy and I counsel clients on this all the time. People see you as one thing, and then they have to see you as something else. That’s very difficult. Once a perception has been established you are that. Quick story, I have a friend who was a friend of mine for many, many years, and she was a client of mine when I was practicing law. She was one of the first to know that I was making the transition into coaching. She was one of the last people to ever properly introduce me as an executive coach rather than a lawyer. She would always walk up and say, “This is Debbie Stone, she’s my lawyer.” I’d be saying, “No, I don’t do that anymore.”

Evelyn:                 I’m a coach.

Debbie:                It was not an easy transition but it was a transition that made a lot of sense given my background in consulting and the law practice.

Evelyn:                 How did you become interested in self-promotion as part of that?

Debbie:                I had always been out doing a lot of networking for the law practice and then for the coaching practice. I had my own experience of learning how to tell my story and promoting myself as an entrepreneur. On top of that when I started coaching I realized that literally every single one of my clients, whether they were entrepreneurial or lawyers who were working on business development or if they were working within an organization and needed to build their brand internally, or they were people in career transition who were interviewing, all of them needed to tell their stories more effectively to get where they wanted to go in their careers. It just became clear to me that this was something that people struggle with but was critically important to success.

Evelyn:                 Was that something that you often worked on with them as a very specific focus?

Debbie:                Yep, very much so. I began speaking about it about six years ago and just found that people ate it up, meaning they realized this is something I need, it’s something I’m resistant to in many, many cases, but something that would really make a big difference.

John:                    I think it’s pretty interesting that you have a legal background because, especially a transactional background. So many attorneys are actually quite terrible at self-promotion, because they are very sort of in the details sort of people, and so they never, they don’t develop that skill to go out there and sort of tell their story in a way that is very compelling or in a way that they can self-promote because they always couch it in doubts, and caveats and all these other things, which isn’t very good from a promoting standpoint, right?

Debbie:                Right, and at the end of the day, self-promotion and really any networking business development, it’s all about building relationships. When we tell stories in any part of our lives we are building relationships. This whole idea of The Art of Self-Promotion is that it is an art. It’s the art of telling your story, so that people want to be in a conversation with you, and ultimately in a relationship with you, because that’s where business comes from, and how people reach their goals. It isn’t really too surprising because I would think that from a lawyer’s perspective, and probably also from a CPA’s and probably many other professional service providers, we are trained to be negative thinkers.

Evelyn:                  To me the process of business development and self-promotion is really a very positive undertaking, which it could be even more of a talent, just to be able to get out of that. My mindset that I have been taught that I actively do on a daily basis. Have you found that there can be more challenging people perhaps? Just based on what their career path is?

Debbie:                I have found that. I think it’s the career path as you said, it’s that way of thinking. If you are a trained negative thinker or trained devil’s advocate, you are gonna come up with inside your own head more reasons not to promote yourself than someone who is not trained to think that way, and maybe is more open and less concerned about the risk. Lawyers in particular and some other folks in business tend to be very risk averse, and this is a risky business. When you put yourself out there, you are vulnerable and it’s risky.

Evelyn:                 You don’t want to feel foolish.

Debbie:                Exactly.

Evelyn:                 Talk to us a little more about the difference between self-promotion and basically selling yourself.

Debbie:                I make a distinction in the book between what I call storytelling versus story selling, because most people don’t want to be in sales, and I’m using air quotes now around the word sales, because especially when we are talking about trained professionals, when I speak to folks like that they say there is a reason I’m not in sales. I’m not a salesperson, I don’t want to be the person who is on TV late at night saying, if you order before midnight tonight you get these knives thrown in too. They don’t want to do that. I think it’s a mindset shift. We are talking about making clear what you do, how you do it, telling your story so that someone else can make an informed decision about whether to hire you, promote you, or have you work with them. If they don’t know they can’t make those decisions.

John:                    What’s the biggest stumbling block that you see most people have in sort of initiating I guess self-promotion? Being mentally able to sort of get there and emotionally able, is it getting over sort of the fear of embarrassment or getting over some modesty?

Debbie:                It’s actually more than that. You are right, it is a mental thing. It’s typically that people think that self-promotion is not nice. They don’t think it’s a socially acceptable thing to do because they’ve encountered somebody who’s done it in an obnoxious arrogant way. They don’t want to be that person.

John:                     I think we’ve all met that person who is-

Evelyn:                  Or seen him on TV.

John:                     I’ve had conversations with you I know in the past where I’ve said, I don’t like being sold to, but I think that’s because I’ve had a memory of somebody who is not very good at it, and they were selling not telling their story.

Debbie:                Absolutely, and that’s what we conjure up every single time we think about self-promotion if we are not careful. It’s that picture of the over the top promoter that we don’t want to be.

Evelyn:                 I think there is a large difference between arrogance and confidence.

Evelyn:                 Debbie when we took the break we were actually just starting to talk a little bit about what is the difference between arrogance and confidence?

Debbie:                There is a critical difference, and that’s the fine distinction that most people fail to make. If you have confidence it creates comfort in other people when they hear you speaking confidently about yourself on what you do, it makes them comfortable with you and your competence. When any of us is arrogant, that’s when we become that over the top obnoxious braggart. The difference really is that humility. It’s the balance. A lot of people will say to me, what do you believe about being humble. I want to be seen as humble? I absolutely think humble and humility, those are great qualities, we want to be humble. We don’t want to lead with it. Use your humility to balance the confidence, so that it hits that right note, and not the arrogant note.

John:                     How do you convey humility? I don’t think that you want to be self-deprecating, that can really backfire on The Art of Self-Promotion. How do you sort of convey humility to people? Is it just something you innately have as a person?

Debbie:                Most people actually have it innately and it balances out and keeps us from becoming that arrogant over the top person. What I always say to professionals is think about the qualities that somebody wants when they hire someone like you. For example, for you guys you are lawyers, when somebody goes out and wants to hire a lawyer. If I said what are the top five qualities that somebody is going to be looking for? I guarantee you humility is not one of the top five things that most people think of when they say I need a good lawyer. That’s true in almost any position. It is again a wonderful human quality that we want to leverage, but it’s not something that we want to generally lead with. That’s why that self-deprecation and talking ourselves down is really counterproductive to any career goal that any of us have.

John:                    Do you ever see people who are pretty self-deprecating? I could imagine that if you don’t know people that that could lead to a lot of problems, because a lot of self-deprecating people don’t realize what they are putting out to their audience? They think they are being funny but yet someone who doesn’t know them sort of walks away with that opinion sometimes.

Debbie:                Yeah. The first time or two it can be really funny and endearing, after a while it undermines that other person’s feeling of confidence and comfort with them. And so whether the person who is being self-deprecating knows it or not they are undermining their own credibility.

Evelyn:                 You say several times in your book that people that are moving toward self-promotion and thinking about how they can actually go about this need to get over the fact that the belief, that life is fair. Talk to us a little bit about what you mean by that.

Debbie:                We all have mindsets that propel us forward or hold us back. We are conscious of some of them, we are not conscious of many of them. Most of us would like to believe or do believe that life would be fair. If I do a really good job or if I have the best resume for the job I will get the job, I will get the promotion, I will get the client. The truth of the matter is life doesn’t work that way. If we don’t get past that mindset then we don’t take action to tell our stories, because we don’t think we have to. I’m just gonna sit in my office and do my job and I know good things are gonna happen to me. If that were true, that would be great, but life doesn’t work that way.

John:                    It’s so difficult because it goes against everything you are taught as a child mainly because your parents probably don’t want to raise bratty little children. They tell you just keep your head down, work hard, and you will be noticed or rewarded, but that doesn’t seem … At a certain point that just doesn’t seem to be the case at all.

Debbie:                Yeah, almost all of us have gotten those messages at some point, whether it’s from parents, teachers, tone it down, don’t brag, all of those kinds of things. That’s why we hold ourselves back.

Evelyn:                 Particularly in business, there is so much going on all of the time. I don’t think that it’s really not all about me. I do think that many people come from that center of it is all about me. Everyone should be willing to reward me for all of the fabulous things that I’m doing.

Debbie:                Like showing up.

Evelyn:                 Exactly. I guess it does lead back to women don’t ask. Also, I think there are a cultural barriers sometimes that keep us not just because we are raised that way but essentially a whole belief system that emotes from your family upbringing that be reserved, be quiet, do you see trouble in how to overcome cultural barriers like that?

Debbie:                Yeah. It’s interesting. There are differences, men versus women. Overall, men have an easier time promoting themselves than women. I will say it’s not easy for men either. Don’t feel in the minority John. Then there are differences in our country, north versus south. There is a whole lot more self-promotion going on seamlessly in New York than there is in Chattanooga. Flip side is, every place else or many other places in the world there is significantly less self-promotion going on.

John:                    I always think it’s funny because in Japan they have a saying that the nail that sticks up gets hammered down. Here we have the saying the squeaky wheel gets the grease. It’s completely different I think.

Debbie:                I do some work with a group of international students at Duke, they are masters and engineering management students. Many of them are Asian and so self-promotion to them is a very difficult concept because they have culturally been taught that it is wrong-

Evelyn:                 Stay in a group.

Debbie:                The problem is they want to work either in the US or for a US company back in China, or where they are from. They can’t get where they want to go if they don’t learn to adjust. It’s not about abandoning your culture or abandoning your beliefs, it’s about adjusting how you behave in a certain situation.

Evelyn:                 Actually I think in a lot of respects I think the United States is probably the difference here, because I also know that England and Australia have what’s called tall puppy syndrome. They like to actively cut down the tall puppy. Entrepreneurs that are very very successful are often attacked in the newspapers as opposed to praise them and wow. We uphold all of those very successful people. I think that’s a US cultural thing.

Debbie:                It does certainly seem to be, and we celebrate that. If you are out there [crosstalk 00:19:36] and talking about yourself. That is celebrated.

Evelyn:                 Talk to us about some habits that as individuals we can start implementing and start thinking about that can actually help the process better of becoming more of a self-promoter.

Debbie:                The very first thing is to learn to begin to accept compliments. That sounds a little crazy, of course people compliment me. I accept it, I don’t reject it, but we do. We reject compliments all the time by either downplaying, it was nothing or it was really a team effort. I didn’t do very much. We send it back or we feel compelled to compliment the other person in return. I always suggest practicing simply saying thank you and taking in the actual compliment. That muscle of accepting a compliment is a muscle you can use to become a better self-promoter.

The other thing I recommend is keeping an accomplishments log, because we are all accomplishing things all the time, but typically we don’t recognize those accomplishments. We only recognize the big ones. By keeping an accomplishments log regularly, we have the opportunity to see what we are doing, that’s great fuel for us to keep going, but it also then says, I accomplished something. I might want to tell somebody about that in the future or even now.

Evelyn:                 Basically self-praise, it’s interesting years ago in a prior business I actually had, we were going through a rather tough time, and I had a mentor basically say on a posted note once a week, write down the three good things that happened last week. Keep your mind on those things when the more challenging things present. It really is because we don’t celebrate our successes. We focus on the negatives, or we focus on what everyone else is accomplishing.

Debbie:                Absolutely, human nature.

John:                    Welcome back to In Process, conversations about business in the 21st century. We are here with Debbie Stone of Novateur Partners. Debbie, I wanted to ask, one of the keys to self-promotion that you spoke about in your book is being prepared, you can’t really self-promote if you are not prepared to do so. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Debbie:                Yeah. It’s very important to prepare for promoting yourself or telling your story just as you would for anything else that was important in your life, or in your career. Most of us take that for granted. I’ll give you a quick example, short story. I tell the story in my book about one of my clients who found himself in the elevator with the CEO of his company unexpectedly and he had nothing to say except something about the weather. That’s not bad but it’s not good either. For all of us, whether it’s for the unexpected, somebody in an elevator or an airplane next to you at the gym, or whether it’s because you want to put your best foot forward in a networking context or in a job interview. If we prepare we do a better job of telling our stories. Just as if I were preparing something on behalf of a client I would take the time to work on it. I should take the time to work on this for myself.

John:                    Always that way you don’t find yourself winging it and going down in flames.

Debbie:                Which can happen. It absolutely can happen.

Evelyn:                 Take us through the process though of identifying those things that are important and those things that may not be that important in putting together a story.

Debbie:                First we always have to be thinking about what’s the context and what’s the audience. We won’t always know in advance who the audience is or what the context is going to be but we can brainstorm where we might encounter opportunities to tell our story. I could think to myself I know that I’m going to travel for business, which I do. I might encounter somebody who says what do you do for a living? I want to be prepared. Or I know I’m attending a particular networking event, and I want to be ready with my story when they go around the table. We think about the context, think about the audience, what level of sophistication is my audience likely to already know something about who I am, or what I do, or is this somebody that I have a chance encounter with at a neighborhood barbecue who may not know anything about law or executive coaching or whatever it is that I do for a living? That’s the first piece. Then we have to do some self-reflection and think about what do I want to share, what goes into that story? I take people through in the book several different ways of thinking about who you are and what you do and how you do it, so that you have the content to put into your self-promotion story for the particular audience and the context that you are in.

John:                    I think also having a story is helpful if you are very tired sometimes and you meet somebody. I think you had a story in the book.

Debbie:                I did.

John:                    Which maybe you could share, but I have found myself when I’m very tired if someone asks me what I do-

Evelyn:                 Just skipping over.

John:                    I say law.

Debbie:                That’s a big conversation starter, right?

John:                    Yeah. If you catch me in the morning maybe you get the full story but you catch me in the afternoon and maybe I’m tired it’s a one word. You had an example in the book about why it’s important to stay sharp and have your story to tell.

Debbie:                Absolutely and I’ll tell it very quick, but I was on a late night flight, unexpectedly after an exceedingly early morning. About halfway through the flight the guy next to me asked if I was always this quiet, which those of you who know me know that I’m not. Then he said tell me about you, what do you do? My first thought was, really? Do we have to do this now? I was prepared. It was easy, it was much more like pressing play on a recording in an animated way of course, but I knew what I wanted to say. I didn’t have to invent it in the moment. You are so right. If you are nervous or if you are tired or something comes out of the blue unexpectedly, if you are not prepared those are those deer in the headlight moments that none of us really want to have.

Evelyn:                 How do you separate self-promotion from promotion of a business or a product? Do you think that’s really necessary? I can understand concepts of self-promotion with regard to internal promotions and feeling comfortable internally and getting recognition. Talk to me a little bit about, if I am just promoting a business and not self-promoting? Is there a difference there, do you think that there is something missing?

Debbie:                There are subtle difference, but at the end of the day if you are promoting a business, whether it’s a product based business, or a service based business, people still need to know the story. They need to know the story of the business or the product, and my belief is that all sales that are ever made, product, services, big, small, are based on relationship. I have to know and like and trust the person that I’m doing business with, if it is a person to person transaction. If I’m buying toothpaste at the store that’s a little bit different, but if I’m purchasing legal services or I’m purchasing web design or I’m purchasing back office software, I need to know that I can trust the source, whether it’s the individual or the organization. I need to feel that relationship being built.

Evelyn:                 Talk to us a little bit about, if I decide that I want to focus on building my story, do I need to work with a coach in order to do that or can I do it on my own or do I need someone who is going to contribute to the review there I guess?

Debbie:                I always recommend that people get a self-promotion buddy. It could be a coach that they hire and pay, one of our coaches. It could be a mentor, it could be a colleague or a friend, but somebody who can help you number one be accountable for doing what you say you are going to do. And really working on this and preparing. Two, somebody who can help you gauge how far are you going in your self-promotion. Are you well within the safe zone and you could turn it up a little bit, or are you becoming an over the top obnoxious braggart that you don’t want to be? We don’t know that about ourselves. 99% of the people who would ever hear the sound of my voice would be way under the level of being obnoxious and arrogant, but they may think that they are tipping the scales and getting really close to the edge. They need somebody to say, “Hey, you can turn it up. You’ve got room.” You should really tell that story a little bit more proudly.

John:                This is really situational but if you have 30 seconds and you are talking to somebody I feel like you could probably brag on the company that you represent at that time pretty easy or maybe somebody who is part of that company. But if you were to list your own achievements within that first 30 seconds that you just met somebody, probably no matter what … Is there a good way to do that? To actively self promote yourself in that way or is it something you have to sort of settle into that self-promotion is more of a conversation as it goes?

Debbie:              It’s a conversation. I believe that you have about 20 seconds at the beginning to do two things, and only two things. That’s to establish your credibility and create enough curiosity for the conversation to continue. At that time you do not need to talk about how great you are and all the great things that you’ve done. You simply want to give that person enough for them to think, this is somebody who I can see is credible, and I’m interested enough to ask the next question and continue the conversation over the course of time, how wonderful you are can start to come out.

John:                  Drop some nuggets along the way.

Evelyn:               Are there ways to tell a story that perhaps … For example, if I’m not comfortable with talking about, I’ve closed 150,000 transactions in my 20 year career, which we all laugh, but I have seen the resumes. If we are not comfortable with that, are there other elements of our lives that might be less focused on business and more focused on life that can also be relevant in those stories?

Debbie:               Definitely, especially at the beginning when you are trying to establish a relationship with somebody so that they can get to know you as somebody credible, and somebody competent. Really this whole process is equal weight in my view of credibility and competence versus relationship. Those other things in life, commonalities that you might have with someone else, interesting experiences that you’ve had, passions that you can talk about comfortably and confidently and zestfully, those things will actually help you really connect with somebody. So that the conversation again will continue and go somewhere. Then you may have an opening to share something about your competence.

Evelyn:                Have you found it more challenging as time has gone on for people to be comfortable with the idea of having a conversation with someone and looking them in the eyes and telling them about themselves?

Debbie:               I don’t know if I’d say it’s more difficult. I would say it seems more challenging for the millennial generation, because they are less used to having what I consider as not a millennial, an actual conversation to begin with. As a parent of a twenty-something I can say, when he says I had a conversation with someone, he typically means text message.

John:                  Welcome back to In Process, conversations about business in the 21st century. We are here with Debbie Stone of Novateur Partners. Debbie, I wanted to talk about, when we were speaking about telling your story, there is something that you had in your book that’s called the jargon trap. I know for attorneys it’s easy for us to fall back on jargon, for a lot of consultants as well. Can you tell us what that jargon trap is?

Debbie:               Yes. Most of us describe what we do the way we think of what we do. For example, somebody who is a securities litigator. If I say hi, what do you do? They might say, I’m a securities litigator. Again, thinking about context and audience, someone else may not know what is. Very often, especially if we encounter somebody who is in a field that we don’t know much about, they tell us in their language, which maybe filled with big words or acronyms that we don’t know. For most people we won’t ask, because we are thinking I should know what that is, but I don’t. I don’t want to embarrass myself by saying can you tell me what a litigator is? As a result you’ve told me you are a securities litigator or a pediatric neuroendocrinologist and I have no idea what it is that you actually do.

John:                   Do you think sometimes people who aren’t confident in telling their story, who aren’t prepared to tell their story … I do have an opinion on this. Sometimes hide behind the jargon because it confuses people to the point where they don’t have to actually go through it in a real way?

Debbie:                Yeah. If you are unprepared it can shield you from having to explain what it is that you do, and it also for a lot of people that’s all they have to say if they are not prepared, because if I haven’t thought about what I do in a way that I can explain it to someone that I encounter on an airplane or next to me at the gym, then I’m gonna fall back on the highest level explanation that I have. The words that I would put on my resume.

Evelyn:                 I think sometimes too though that big words are used by people as an arrogance almost of let me show you how smart I am, because I’m going to use these words and not consider the impact of them in a lot of respects. I guess if you go along with the idea of I need to be able to explain, it’s probably also an acceptance that you probably don’t want to be showing attitude as part of the discussion.

John:                    I’ve definitely seen where I think people have used to create a power and balance I think where they were in a situation and they used it to gain an advantage to whoever they are speaking with by confuse basically, confusing them. It’s like shock and awe with consulting jargon.

Evelyn:                 It’s true. I actually think that that works sometimes. I can talk about this because I am a lawyer. I do think that lawyers use that jargon in a lot of respects because it kowtows people to a sense of, they must be really smart, because I don’t really know what he’s talking about.

Debbie:                Right, and I think the flip side to that is, when for some people, if you don’t feel confident about who you are and what you do, you may use those big words mistakenly thinking that that will impress people with how expert, credible and great you are, even though it may just serve to confuse them or make them feel inferior.

Evelyn:                 Or alienate them completely.

Debbie:                Exactly.

Evelyn:                 Debbie, I have a really, what I think is an important question here. Can I really self-promote with confidence and passion and be convincing if I really don’t like what I do for a living?

Debbie:                The short answer is no. Passion and authenticity are critically important to being an effective self-promoter as I define it. If you aren’t being authentic, then your self-promotion is not gonna come across well to others. If you don’t feel that passion for what you do, then you are not gonna be able to exude that passion for what you do. For those people, when I encounter them we have a different kind of conversation about, number one, possibly helping them find what nugget of what they do they are passionate about. If not, about what else they might do where they do feel some passion or some excitement.

John:                     Is that always necessarily something that they do at work, or could it be just a quality? For you you said you like the actual consulting part when you were an attorney not necessarily the indemnification. If going through indemnification clauses, if there is just an aspect that you really like, should you hone in on that part? Because not everybody likes 100% of their job. Sometimes they like a very specific aspect. Should they craft their story around that?

Debbie:                Absolutely because where you have passion that’s typically where you then shine in your relationship with the people that you serve, your clients, your customers. Where you are able to make the biggest impact. If you can hone in on what that is, then something I help people really figure out, what is it that I’m passionate about or excited about? What do I bring to my client’s or customers that’s different from somebody else? That’s where you are gonna make the biggest impact in telling your story.

Evelyn:                 So then is that the also a contributor is, you talk about being positive, is that part of that do you think or is that separate? Being positive in your presentation, is that separate from focusing on those things?

Debbie:                There is some overlap but when I talk about being positive in your presentation what I’m typically talking about is avoiding comparisons and negativity. We’ve all had things in our career paths that have gone really really well. And we’ve had things that have not gone as well. Number one, focus on the positive, what has gone well? What is it that you contributed, what is it that went smoothly or well, what did you learn from something that didn’t go all that well? Then avoiding comparisons is really really important, because self-promotion is not about saying I’m better than or in comparison to. It’s really about telling your story, focusing on what you do and how well you do it, and not making those negative comparisons with somebody else.

Evelyn:                 Not degrading basically the other side?

Debbie:                Correct.

John:                    But we do see some people, is that just a short … We do see some people who constantly engage in comparison? Is that a losing battle ultimately you think? Sometimes there are some short term successes.

Evelyn:                 Maybe it comes back to life’s not fair.

John:                    Life’s not fair. Exactly. Life is not fair.

Debbie:                Yeah, it’s a philosophical difference. My belief is that you are gonna get a lot further in life overall if you focus on the positive. And whether that’s in telling your story or in anything else that you do. Eventually if you spend your time comparing and downgrading others and denigrating them, it is probably gonna come back around to bite you. Let’s pay it forward in a positive way.

John:                    I think it’s also probably hard for people to … Sometimes people are told do to things like that, and I think if it’s not in their personality, I don’t think it’s ever gonna come off great, but if it’s really not in your personality, it comes off even worse.

Evelyn:                 I think it also comes back to, you can almost identify who hasn’t actually gone through a self-evaluation of how do I actually sound if these words that I’m saying were coming out of the mouth of someone I was listening to. How would I react? I don’t think they always turn the tables to say, “Oh my God. That was really nasty. I shouldn’t really engage in those kinds of discussions.” Very interesting. What about overkill, what is that?

Debbie:                Overkill is essentially telling more than you need to tell in promoting yourself. It’s the person who when you say, “Tell me about yourself.” Five minutes later they are still telling you about themselves, and they started when they were in kindergarten. We’ve all met those people, we don’t want to be those people. Again, this goes back to preparation, if you are thinking in advance about what’s gonna be relevant, then you have a nugget or two to share as opposed to starting at the very dawn of time with your resume and saying, “Well, I graduated from high school and,” and continuing forward. That’s gonna take a long time and you are gonna bore your audience to tears. We don’t want to go there. Again, I think we have typically in almost any conversation about 20 seconds to establish credibility and create enough curiosity before someone else’s mind starts to wander.

Evelyn:                 What I think is really interesting about the conversation is that it sounds like we really need to constantly be doing a reevaluation almost of how you actually present yourself in what scenario? Because it seems like it’s more dynamic than I’ve got my pet speech and I’m gonna use it the next time I get in the elevator.

Debbie:                Absolutely, and that’s why I titled the book The Art of Self-Promotion, because this is not something where I can say I’ve got it. It’s in a box, I’ll put it out when I need it. We are changing all the time, the context, the audience is changing all the time. We are adding accomplishments, we have different goals, and so it is a very dynamic process.

John:                    Thank you Debbie for joining us.

Debbie:                Thank you.

John:                    I think this is a very good podcast with a lot of information.

Evelyn:                 Very interesting, really really good.

John:                    Very interesting. We’d like to say thank you to our wonderful guest Debbie Stone. For more information on Debbie and her executive coaching work visit We hope you enjoyed In Process today. If you have any questions on the topic please reach out to If you are interested in learning more about us, please visit our website at where you’ll also find a list of our past and upcoming shows. Thank you for joining us.

Evelyn:                 See you next time.

Announcer:        This has been In Process, conversations about business in the 21st century with Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon. Presented by Trusted Counsel, a corporate and intellectual property law firm. For more information visit

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