This post comes from my latest column at The Ladders.
Thousands of people. Hundreds of vendors. Only two bathrooms. How are you supposed to make your mark at your next event?
Simple. Spend some of the time making a name for yourself, and spend some of the time helping other people make a name for themselves.
Consider these strategies to stand up, stick out and steal the day:
Live the brand. You never know when your brand will need to rise to the occasion. That’s why consistency is far better than rare moments of greatness. And yet, living the brand isn’t what you think it is. It’s not about dressing for success. It’s not about converting yourself into a corporate clone. It’s not about memorizing some hollow, hackneyed mission statement. It’s not about puking your unique selling proposition all over everyone you meet. It’s not about integrating a sequence of promises that align with organizational initiatives. All that does is annoy the bejesus out of everybody you meet. The reality is, to live the brand is to leave no doubt in people’s minds about who you are, what you do and what happens when you do it. Do you have answers to those identity elements?
Be disarmingly predictable.People trust brands that are predictable. Which means it’s your job to prove customers right. To confirm their suspicions about the value you deliver and the values you stand for. To become known for a unique way of interacting with the world. That’s all branding is anyway: An expectation. A shortcut. A predictable infection. And your challenge is to decide what you’re going to breathe into people, then sustain that spirit through every touch point. How predictable is your brand? Because every interaction you have with somebody either adds to, or subtracts from, the overall perception of your brand. What can customers expect about your behavior?
Make the invisible inescapable.Potential employers don’t care what you know, they care how you think, and how your thinking will make their company money. The question you have to ask yourself is: How do you express how you think? The good news is, the available tools for doing so are both easy to access and easy to apply. From blogs to social media outlets to public visibility, your goal is to take what’s in your head and get it onto people’s radars, under people’s skin and into people’s hearts. Without that, your thoughts will remain just that: Thoughts. And all gorgeous gray matter will go to waste. And every branding effort thereafter will be nothing but winking in the dark. How are you branding your thinking in three dimensions?
Be a mirror.Sometimes the best way to infect people is to staple your tongue to the roof of your mouth and let them infect themselves. In my leadership council, we regularly employ the practice of “becoming a verbal mirror” for the presenter. By reflecting their reality back to them, using their exact words, not by summarizing, we allow them to see themselves as we see them. In fact, you might even help people become impressed with themselves. What do you reflect back to people?
Mood matters.According to a twenty-year study published in Time, emotions can pass among a network of people up to three degrees of separation away. “Your joy may, to a larger extent than you realize, be determined by how cheerful your friends and their friends are, even if some of the people in this chain are total strangers to you.” And so, moods are contagious. The question is whether you infect people with the right one. Consider asking yourself: When you walk into a room, how does it change? When you walk out of a room, how does it change? If you asked the five people who spent the most time with you, what one word would they use to describe your mood?
Ultimately, going to networking events and careers fairs is more than just being the life of the party, it’s also about bringing other people to life at the party. Don’t just make your mark, help other people make their marks as well.
What did you learn?
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That Guy with the Nametag
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