The Brand of You

How do you stand out in a crowd? More importantly, what sets you apart from others?

Please don’t say it’s your outstanding communications skills, your attention to detail or your ability to meet a deadline. At the NFPW conference, I asked communicators who had listed these skills on their resumes to stand. As you might suspect, lots of people were standing.

So how do you stand out? One way is to present the brand of you consistently. To do so, take a look at your resume, online platforms, personal business card, head shot, emails and network.

Resume Do you have an objective on your resume? If so, delete it. Instead include a summary statement, which is, essentially, your personal branding statement. It sums up what you do and how you do it. When you list your experience and places of employment be as specific as possible and demonstrate your success.

Online platforms Secure and establish your name domain. Do the same on social media networks. Even if you never use them you prevent others from doing so and potentially harming the brand of you. Be consistent in how you present yourself on each platform.

Personal business card Many of you have a professional business card but it’s helpful to have a personal card, too. You never know who you might meet who could benefit from your talent and expertise.  My personal business card contains my name, phone number and email address and a link to my blog. Presenting a person with a business card is much more professional than scribbling my name and email on a piece of paper.

A ghost image does not help define the brand of you.

A ghost image does not help define the brand of you.

Head shot A head shot is more than a photograph. It is often the first impression you make online. One study found that recruiters looked at a candidate’s head shot longer than they looked at any other portion of a profile so make it professional. If you are going to be on social media use a photo. Don’t use the ghost image and said the wrong message. 

Emails Think of your personal email signature as a personal calling card. Use it to share links to your social media profiles or to share about a recent honor or award. My email signature includes a link to this blog.

Network How many people are in your professional network? What are you doing to grow it and to learn more about the members? When you attend a conference, make it a point to introduce yourself to at least five people. Then follow up with them during the conference. Schedule lunches with individuals with whom you want to network. If lunch is too demanding try breakfast or just coffee. Networking should be about assisting others and not simply focused on what the other person can do for you. After a networking opportunity, be sure to follow-up.

Does the brand of you need some tweaking? If so make the time to do so now.

5 Tips to Get the Most From a Conference

Business cards

Don’t just collect business cards. Follow up with the people you have met following the conference. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

Bring Business Cards. A conference is a great opportunity to network. You will want to have business cards to distribute so when you meet someone they will have your name, title and contact details. When I receive someone’s business card, I jot a few notes on the card so I can remember our conversation when I return to my office. Also, if I’ve promised to send or share information I make a note of it so that I can do so. I also send LinkedIn requests so additional networking can occur online.

Review the Schedule. Before the conference begins take some time to review the schedule and speaker bios. Highlight the sessions that you want to attend and make sure that the title aligns with the session description so you aren’t disappointed. Make note of any speakers with whom you would like to have a conversation. I’ve switched sessions after reading a speaker’s bio and realizing they were speaking on a topic that would resonate with me.

Branch Out. When there are meals or networking opportunities, make an effort to sit with individuals with whom you don’t know. Speaking to strangers isn’t always easy, but at a conference you have a good opening for a conversation. Ask why they are attending and what they hope to gain from the conference. Share your reasons for being there.

Build in Down Time. Conferences can be exhausting. Networking is hard work. Sleeping in a strange bed can be a challenge. Keeping up with the office creates challenges. While it’s admirable to want to attend every session and network to all hours, you also need to take care of yourself. Be sure to give yourself some down time if you need it.

Schedule Follow-Up. Following a conference, I’m always reengaged. I have great plans to meet with colleagues and continue the conversations. I schedule the lunches, coffees and phone calls within the first two weeks back; otherwise, I get too caught up in the minutia of my job. If I have follow-up assignments, I try to complete them within a week of returning, if possible.

Lunches Fuel Networking Opportunities

Fork_KnifeLike many people, I frequently eat my lunch at my desk. I at least try to use that time to catch up on online reading. However, I am guaranteed at least two lunches outside the office each month.

It’s a professional goal I established for myself many years ago – namely, to connect with colleagues at my workplace and with colleagues within my profession. Each month I schedule lunch with a colleague where I work. It’s a time to take a break and to get to know each other better. We also usually share work-related information. One colleague, for example, has helped me develop a better understanding of the budget process. Another colleague and I discuss leadership and team building. Mainly it allows for the connecting to happen that often doesn’t in the office because we’ll all too busy.

I also connect with peers. It’s a great way to learn what others are doing. We share frustrations, and I find it’s always good to know I’m not alone. Even better, we work to find solutions. We also share best practices and bounce ideas around. I always return from these lunches reinvigorated.

Turns out this a great tool. In his book Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi says that social settings are a great way to reach out to colleagues and future contacts. Ferrazzi is founder and CEO of the training and consulting firm Ferrazzi Greenlight and a contributor to Inc., the Wall Street Journal, and Harvard Business Review.

Some months I’m able to get a few extra lunches onto my schedule. And sometimes I find breakfast to be the perfect time to reconnect because it’s usually a shorter time since we’re both ready to get to the office and because it’s the start of the day, we usually have lots of ideas.

How do you connect?

5 Tips to Navigate a Conference Successfully

The NFPW Education Fund awarded several grants to cover the NFPW conference registration fee for first-timers. Whether you are a first-timer or attending your twentieth conference, here are a few tips for getting the most out of a conference:

Participate in POWER Networking. This event is held on the first day of the conference and is an easy way to meet about a dozen members. Then you can follow-up with them throughout the conference and afterwards. Even if you are an introvert, you’ll enjoy this event.

Bring plenty of business cards. You’ll want to share them as part of POWER Networking. You’ll also want to share them throughout the conference. When you do meet someone and exchange business cards, make a note on the back of the person’s card so you’ll recall the encounter and will have a reason to follow-up.

Highlighters are handy to have with you to mark what sessions you want to attend at a conference.

Review the schedule. The conference is jam-packed with workshop sessions, banquets and networking opportunities. Take a moment when you first arrive to highlight or circle the activities you must want to do. This will help prevent you from overlooking an activity.

Talk to someone you don’t know. Who knows, they may not know anyone either and you will each have a new acquaintance. I look forward to conferences now because I have made so many friends from across the United States.

Schedule time to explore. One of the best parts of NFPW conferences are the pre- and post-tours, as well as the day tours. Even if you weren’t able to participate in those, take a few hours to check out the neighborhood. This year’s conference is in Scottsdale, known for its breathtaking landscape, upscale shopping and ArtWalks. You’ll also want to check out the hotel, a former Hollywood hideaway. Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner wed at the hotel.

POWER Networking Jumpstarts NFPW Conference

One of the challenges of attending a conference is finding a way to meet people at more than just a surface level.

Last year at the NFPW conference, we held a POWER Networking, a structured networking event that breaks away from the model of speeding from one person to the next and instead focuses on truly connecting with others.

We gathered in small groups and provided information about ourselves to those at the table. Each person had a turn (a timer kept us on track). At the end of the session, we had all become acquainted with other members.

What I like about the approach is that I meet a lot of members quickly, and in a setting that doesn’t feel forced. More importantly I learn about the person as both an individual and as a professional.

Others who participated agreed.

“The networking session was a fun and fast way to get to know other members at the start of the conference,” said Cathy Jett of Virginia Press Women. “While short, there was still time for several people at one of the tables where I sat to get suggestions about books or other projects they were working on.”

First-timer Sylvia Dickey Smith of Press Women of Texas said, “As a result of the POWER Networking session, I no longer felt like a newcomer. I had friends!”

If you are attending the NFPW conference, you will have the opportunity to build relationships by tapping into new resources, making fresh discoveries and uncovering prospects and leads. Bring plenty of business cards and promotional materials and get ready to seize the moment!