Be visible to succeed
Many people feel uncomfortable at the mere thought of stepping into the limelight, be it in real life or in the virtual world. But in the age of digitalization and all but mandatory social media presence, it’s a bad idea to lay low. If people can’t see you, you pretty much don’t exist on the virtual stage – neither for potential customers nor for potential employers. At the WU Executive Academy, positioning and pitch expert Denise Vorraber offers workshops for managers and future founders on the topic of “selling yourself,” teaching them what to have an eye on when marketing oneself as a brand.
For many people, personal branding and making themselves visible is difficult, Denise Vorraber says. Her own story is a little different: when she was 23 years old, she was listed among the “Forbes 30 under 30” in Germany/Austria/Switzerland because “I applied for it myself.” And that’s already her first piece of advice: “Be your own cheerleader,” meaning that you should be confident about and a fan of what you do and also convey this attitude to others. Particularly founders often wait too long to start working on their personal branding: “They tell themselves that they have to finish the website or put the finishing touches to one product or the other first. What’s important is to present your achievements, to be proud of them, and just own this feeling,” she says.
The expert shares the following six tips for making yourself a successful brand:
“Regardless of whether you are a start-up founder, manager, or young entrepreneur: the ability to state in only a few sentences what you have to offer, what you are good at, and what you stand for will make or break your success,” Denise Vorraber says.
“In the past, the only chance for employees at companies in the US to sell an idea to management was during a short elevator ride,” Denise Vorraber explains. If you only have 30 seconds to present your idea, project, or product, you better keep things concise, precise, and to the point. The way you phrase your idea will determine whether your interlocutor will be excited or bored. A person adept at the art of the elevator pitch will benefit from this skill in many situations: “An elevator pitch is the way to go in many situations: when you are applying for a job, networking in the course of a buffet meal, in the introduction round at an online meeting, during an interview, or in your social media profile,” Denise Vorraber points out.
Many tend to sell themselves short or babble at length when they introduce themselves. As a result, the listener will soon lose interest or feel overwhelmed – particularly in large introduction rounds. If you are able to keep it short and sweet when you tell somebody what you can do, who you are, and what you have to offer, you will leave them with a clear impression of yourself.
An elevator pitch is also important in networking events: “But don’t be too sales-focused: just talk about yourself and what you do in an enthusiastic way, and then proceed to asking the other person questions and reacting to what they have to say.” Also executives and other employees can actively promote topics on social media such as LinkedIn, “for instance particular issues that are important to them, such as female leadership, or if they are ambassadors for specific topics.”
It might seem difficult during a pandemic, but there is simply no way around networking in professional life. Creating a presence and skillfully positioning yourself in this process can open up whole new career opportunities. Networking is also possible in the virtual world: there are respective forums on LinkedIn and Xing, you can use comments or postings, or you can attend online events or workshops. And the above-mentioned rule also applies in these contexts: “Share what you are passionate about,” Denise Vorraber advises.
Social media platforms and networks have made it easier than ever to engage in self-marketing without having to put up a lot of resources. “I often post milestones achieved or workshops I offer on LinkedIn, and the feedback is always very positive,” Denise Vorraber shares, explaining that showing your achievements as well as what you love doing and excel in is the best advertisement. “I also think it’s essential to offer learnings and key take-aways to your followers,” she says.
Confidence is not something you need to earn, it’s something you decide to have: “My own coach shared this extremely helpful mantra with me. I used to think that the more I do and show about myself, the more confident I could be and allow myself to feel. But in reality, you can simply decide to be confident and trust your capabilities. Nobody can take that away from you – realizing that was a game changer for me,” Denise Vorraber recounts.
Positive affirmations or mantras can be extremely empowering – particularly right before a performance, pitch, or presentation. “Many of us acquired negative associations with such situations in school: having to deliver a speech on a topic neither you nor the listeners care about. But when you’re grown up and a start-up founder, you are here at your own will and the same is true for the audience, who is looking forward to hearing something about an exciting topic and learning something new,” Denise Vorraber says. She remembers having stage fright herself in the early days of her career, “but frequent exercise and giving myself a pep talk before facing the audience really helped.”
“We can use our body language to feel more confident and self-assured. By assuming high power poses, you take up space and stand up tall, for instance by planting your feet firmly on the ground, pushing out your chest, and standing up straight: after two minutes, your stress level will drop and you will feel more confident. You can use high power poses together with positive self talk to push yourself right before a speech,” Vorraber advises. Star speaker Tony Robbins, for instance, jumps on a trampoline and punches the air with his fists before he enters the stage. “After 30 years as a public speaker, these rituals still help him get in the right mood.” What’s important when it comes to exercises of this kind: “It has to feel right, and you should choose the right pose for yourself.” Hand gestures to emphasize what you are saying are also a good idea. “Studies show that people who do not move at all while they are speaking are perceived as less credible and trustworthy, and listeners often think they are distanced and arrogant,” Denise Vorraber remarks. If you are nervous on stage and your body tension is low and your body language is timid and insecure, you could be presenting the most excellent idea and still not have much success. “What’s more, people will associate these qualities with your leadership style as a manager or executive. People who are very nervous and lack confidence on stage will also be perceived as unconfident managers.” This is why she advises to let somebody else do the job in such a case: “If that applies to you, it might be better to ask somebody else to do the presentation or pitch.”
For more information about the workshop portfolio of the WU Executive Academy, please click here.