Tuesday, July 21, 2009
The National Speakers Association convention ends today in Phoenix, Ariz. The speakers, members and others, including myself, have been posting tweets about the sessions and events throughout the week. Fun to read, some really make you think. You can find them at #NSA09 on Twitter.
As I'm going through my own branding process, thinking about who I am, how I want others to see me--and learning to accept my not-so-perfect parts--I'm reading the "tweets" and was stopped by this one:
"Reputation and brand...it's what people say about you in the restroom on convention breaks!"
Who said that? I've heard it before, but this time it came from Colorado-based speaker Gina Schreck, who, even in real life, teaches audiences in byte-size lessons.
Funny that she wrote that. It made think of the guy at this convention who has been passing out his business postcards to whomever and wherever he can leave them. Apparently, his specialty is Power Point presentations, and I guess he really wants as many people as possible to know that. But there are appropriate times to promote yourself, and there are inappropriate times. My first encounter with him wasn't a good one.
I was volunteering with a friend at Friday's Cavett Institute, when in walks this guy after lunch with a stack of his postcards. He sets them down on one of the decorated tables in the back of the room where I'm standing, asking me, "Is this where you put your cards?" I quickly tell him, "No, this is for giveaways." He insists he's "giving" his cards away and leaves them there and goes to sit down in my seat that I offered him because the room was by now full.
Beside the fact that he didn't listen to my answer after he asked his question, the tables at the back of the room were not meant for just anyone's business cards and promotional materials. They were stacked with member books, products and business cards. Every year, NSA members donate valuable materials for the Cavett Institute students so they can get the most out of their learning experience before the actual conference begins. The tables were for "member" recognition, not the participants' in the classroom. The tables were filled with gifts from speakers who've worked so hard to get where they are that they want to share what they've learned, hopefully to make things easier for the new members who join. They've earned that right. These tables were not set up for students to honor themselves.
But this guy chose to ignore my "no," which I saw as arrogant on his part. To place his postcards amongst the bounty, if you will, lent him an air of credibility he's not yet earned. My friend who was also volunteering suggested removing the cards, but in the spirt of NSA founder Cavett Robert, I knew the only thing to do was to leave them there. Would anyone take them? Not likely. Would anyone really care that they were even there? Not likely. So what's my point in telling you this story?
Well, you can imagine there was a discussion about this in the convention hallway. My first impression of the guy was not a good one. I saw him as pushy, self-serving, and none too pleasant. And I felt bad for thinking these things, but I'm human, and that's what we do. We take note of first impressions. And we make them. In light of what Gina Schreck noted while at this year's conference about reputation and brand, it's probably a good idea if you knew what people were saying about you in the hallway.
So, what's your first impression going to be?