The drinks were flowing, the hors d'oeuvres delicious and the conversation stimulating. Although the economy is a depressing subject, there was plenty of lighthearted laughter as we reviewed the gruesome details tongue in cheek. This was a lively crowd, eager to escape the stress of an arduous workday.Off in the corner, the evening's speaker was setting up a display of his books, which would be for sale after he dazzled us with his presentation.Dinner was served, and it was pretty good. There was a brief business meeting, which hardly dampened the mood.Then the president (of the society, not Obama) introduced the speaker. He read the lengthy bio, which had been on the program. It included all kinds of superlatives (e.g., "brilliant, incredibly insightful," etc.). It made you wonder how God created the world without this guy's help. Interestingly, the light-hearted mood began to deteriorate. I actually heard a few moans.And then -- this is the best part -- the speaker went to the front of the room, shook the president's hand, and hugged him, warmly thanking him for that wonderful introduction.The speaker actually thought we were stupid enough to believe the president did the research and wrote the glowing introduction he had just read. What a mood change! This speaker suddenly found himself in front of a very hostile audience. By the way, that usually happens when you insult us.To his credit, he was at least astute enough to sense we didn't like him. So, he tried impressing us by telling us just how great he really was. It had the opposite effect - iPhones, Blackberries and the like were everywhere, as the audience felt a sudden urge to check emails, read the day's news or surf the Web.At this point, our speaker would have been better off leaving the podium and sending a broadcast email, because people were paying more attention to their screens.Most of the presentation was self-promotion. He just couldn't resist the opportunity to keep telling us how good he was, just in case we weren't getting it. It was very tiring.There was very little applause at the end. Nor did I see anyone approach the book table to buy an autographed copy. He had managed to turn everyone off.Apparently, our speaker had never heard of rule No. 1: When you find yourself in a hole, and you don't like it, stop digging.Let us decideAre you as amazed as I am at the amount of self-promotion nowadays? Just how credible is someone, anyone, telling you, "I'm the greatest"? Do you believe them? Are you likely to believe anything else they tell you? Self-promotion is probably the quickest way to destroy our credibility. (Somebody should tell our politicians.)The well-known speaker Brian Tracy, tells us, "The way to impress others is to be impressed by them." Don't tell us how great you are; tell us how great we are or make us feel you think we're great. We will be impressed by your good taste, if nothing else.Even if you don't speak in front of audiences, this applies to you. How much self-promotion do you have on your résumé? Just tell us what you've done; let us decide how good you are.I had the opportunity to speak for this society a few months later. After submitting my introduction to the program chairman, the president called to tell me it was the most "professional introduction" he had ever received, and he was looking forward to introducing me.My secret: there were no self-promotions and no superlatives; I briefly related my experience. I didn't even tell them I had done a good job.Just keep the self-flattery out. That's all it takes. And you'll really stand out as one of the few not basking in an orgy of self-praise.As soon as we start speaking, people will immediately know if we're any good, and nothing we or anyone else says will change their minds.Ronald J. Bourque, a consultant and speaker from Windham, has had engagements throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. He can be reached at 603-898-1871 or RonBourque@myfairpoint.net.
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This article appears in the Archive 2013 issue of New Hampshire Business Review