Branding Room Only -
Boosters and Bruisers:
Paula T. Edgar is an attorney, speaker, and CEO of PGE Consulting Group LLC, a strategy firm specializing in professional development and diversity, equity, and inclusion solutions for organizations. She is an expert in personal branding, leadership, networking, leveraging social media, and business development. In the last year, Paula delivered keynote speeches and facilitated workshops for over 10,000 attendees.
Paula has written for and been featured in publications such as the New York Times, Bloomberg Law, Business Insider, and US News.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- Branching out of your comfort zone at conferences
- Why photo opportunities are so important
- The way to make a memorable introduction
- Engaging on social media through conferences
In this episode:
Conferences are key opportunities for personal branding since they provide a rare opportunity to connect with experts, thought leaders, peers and mentors in the same place. It is crucial to make the most of these opportunities.
Paula Edgar has the beneficial experience of attending events as a guest and speaker. After countless conferences and conventions, she has developed an urgent list of do’s and don’ts. She received several questions on the subject and is ready to answer them.
In this episode of Branding Room Only, Paula T. Edgar continues her Ask Paula segment to break down the essentials of attending conferences to boost your personal brand. She discusses photo opportunities, how to carry yourself, social media, and how to make great first impressions.
Resources mentioned in this episode
Sponsor for this episode
This episode is brought to you by PGE Consulting Group LLC.
PGE Consulting Group LLC is dedicated to providing a practical hybrid of professional development training and diversity solutions. From speaking to consulting to programming and more, all services and resources are carefully tailored for each partner. Paula Edgar’s distinct expertise helps engage attendees and create lasting change for her clients.
Paula Edgar: Welcome to the Branding Room Only podcast, where we share career stories, strategies, and lessons learned on how industry leaders and influencers have built their personal brands. Now let’s get started with the show. Hello all and welcome to Branding Room Only. And this week we have a special episode that I’ve been thinking about for a while. It’s going to be a new series, that I’ll do where I give short feedback about different things that I think are opportunities to build your brand and opportunities to damage your brand.
And I’m calling it Personal Branding – Boosters and Bruisers. And so we’re going to be talking today about attending conferences. And the reason why this came up in my mind is because I thought I’ve been to attended six conferences in the last two months. I love conferences. It’s probably the closest thing I’ll get to going back to school where I know I’m going to learn.
I’m going to meet new people, et cetera and as an extrovert, I really love connecting with people and conferences are a great opportunity to build your brand because usually they are either convened over a specific topic, right? So you’re trying to gain skills when it comes to a specific subject matter or there are convenings that are based on your affinity, right?
So that might be a Black Bar Association or Women’s Bar Association or some kind of other grouping. So I’m throwing out my boosters and my bruisers about conferences, not in order of the importance. Just things that came to mind as I was jotting this down I’m going to give it to you this way, but I’ll also be following up with writing an article on this on my blog so that I can flesh out some of this a little bit more. So there’s about seven of each one and I’m going to start with the bruisers – the things that can impact your personal brand negatively if not thought about and managed. So first thing is a conference is a convening for meeting people, right?
So when you are a stagnant networker, or a relationship builder who only wants to continue to build the relationships they already have then that’s challenging. So one of the best things that you can do is to not do that. So the bruiser here is, sticking with the same group the whole time. You want to use opportunities to meet new people and to deepen relationships with people who you already know, but staying with the same people the whole time can negatively impact your brand because it can be seen as cliquish.
But also because you’re not building your brand by expanding your network and, who you’re interacting with. So that’s one. Second one is, the six conferences I went to, four of them were focused on women and women lawyers in particular. And so my next recommendation is don’t forget a sweater.
And the reason why is because conferences are notoriously, rooms are notoriously cold. And so, you know me, I love a great outfit. However I always carry a sweater or a scarf or shawl with me so that I cannot be cold because sometimes these rooms are so cold that you cannot think you cannot interact and that lack of interaction or being thoughtful about the content is taking away from your brand at the conference.
So make sure you have layers that you can navigate in order to get the best experience that you want from your attendance. This one is actually I’m going to go out of order. So the next one is overindulgence. You want to be thoughtful about not only how much you drink, I mean specifically folks who indulge in alcohol, making sure that you understand your limits and you understand the people who you’re with, and how you’re showing up if you are drinking alcohol and making sure you understand that sometimes too much is too much.
All times too much is too much for the most part. But that can also apply for food. You know, a lot of conferences have meals and give you the opportunity to you know eat, break bread, and do networking events that way. But I’ve seen at least a few places where people are focusing on eating so much and not actually connecting with each other.
So just be thoughtful, give yourself breaks, take a moment to sip rather than guzzle and to slowly chew rather than stuff your mouth so that you can talk and you can interact and you show up looking well. So the next one is a pet peeve of mine. All of you must know about this about me already, which is missing photo opportunities.
So if you go to a conference and you take no photo for me, it’s like a no do. As we know I probably overdo it when it comes to taking pictures, but I love documenting events. I love going back and remembering them. And it’s a great way to connect with people. So I think you should think about how either taking a picture if the company if the organization that’s sponsoring the conference has a step and repeat, or even a social media framework, or just the logo someplace or a screen that you can take a picture nearby it and make it thoughtful that you’re going to do so in order to help promote them and your attendance and to just get some good pictures of you doing stuff. It is a brand booster to do it and it’s a brand bruiser and it can be when you don’t. The other one is not using the conference or session hashtag. Why is this important? You’ll have hashtags so that people can understand connectivity across the event or the topic etc. So you’ll see the little pound sign and then whatever the name is. You want to use the hashtag in order to convene with people so you’ll be able to know who else is there. Two of the recent conferences I went to, it was by following the hashtag that I realized that somebody was there that I hadn’t seen in a long time and went to go find them right and same thing with them seeing a post that I had made and doing the same thing.
So make sure you’re using them and also assuming you’re on social, which I’m hoping that you are at least on LinkedIn. And then also that you’re using the correct one, because also using an incorrect one will make it that people don’t find your content. Okay, then on bruisers, we also have, this is literally a pet peeve of mine.
When it is time, so let’s say you’re at a session, whether it’s a large session or a smaller, conference subsection, please if the speakers or the panel says it’s time for questions, you have the opportunity to ask questions, I encourage you to do so, but so often what people will do rather than ask questions is they will take that time to consider themselves the sixth panelist and make a comment, and it is frustrating for people who are actually wanting to inquire about the subject matter expertise of the panelists.
That you are utilizing an opportunity that they would have had to ask to make a statement versus to ask a question that might have been instructive for the entire audience. Similarly, a brand bruiser along that same line is not asking questions. So as somebody who puts on a lot of speaking engagements, I do keynotes and I love moderating panels, I make an assumption that there will be audience questions. I also prepare for if there is not an audience question because I want to be prepared and we’ll be doing an upcoming podcast on preparing and being a good moderator because it’s just another place I see people not doing as well as they probably can.
But when you have an opportunity to stand up, introduce yourself and ask a question, you should take it, particularly if a lot of people aren’t raising their hand. It’s a time for you to shine. So when you have groupings and people ask no questions, it is a brand bruiser because folks think not necessarily negatively, but definitely neutrally, which in my mind, I don’t want people to think neutrally about me.
I want them to think well about me, because people aren’t taking opportunities. Subpart of that is if you do stand up and ask a question, make sure you have your elevator pitch ready to go, or at least a quick introduction. Say your name and your affiliation, right? Right? I’m Paula, Paula Edgar, and I am from PGE Consulting Group, and I want to ask a question about XYZ thing.
Simple. Instead, people get up, they don’t say their name, they ask a question, or even worse, like I said before, make a comment. Okay, so those are the bruisers. I would love for you to shoot me an email, message me on social media, and talk to me about what other bruisers you think that I should talk about more when it comes to conferences.
This was just a list that came to mind, but I know there’s so many more and I will be paying more attention as I am going to more conferences because I love conferences. All right. So the conference boosters are complementary outfit planning. So I know that I am extra when it comes to this, but it is effective.
So I like to look at the logo and the color scheme of the organization that is matching or that is hosting the event or the conference and as much as I can either align, so same color or complement. So that I just look like I’m supposed to be there. Like the photos that I take, are good, are good ones.
And for the article, I’m going to go ahead and link the Paula’s Top 10 Rules for Perfect Photos article that I wrote, and if you haven’t heard it, it’s on my blog, so you can go to paulaedgar.com/news, and read that one. It’s one of my favorite and people reference it all the time because I’m passionate about this.
Similarly, another thing that you can do to boost your brand at conferences is to not just take pictures of yourself or with other groups, but with speakers. People who are panelists go up and, you know, I’m known for my selfie. I love a selfie. It doesn’t have to be that but you can get pictures with the folks who are speakers.
And that’s helpful for you to show that not only did you engage, but you engaged, and followed up in terms of wanting to have a connection with the people who are speaking or your colleagues who are attending. Next is a memorable introduction. So I said this a little bit of in the brand bruisers, showing an example of what you should do versus what you shouldn’t do, but I’m going to double down on this.
I believe in the James Bond method of introducing yourself and those of you who have been in any of my sessions about branding or relationship building is this, it is when you introduce yourself to someone you say your name and then you name your last name. So Hi, I’m Paula, Paula Edgar. So now they’re hearing my name twice.
I am saying it deliberately so they can understand me and know and most importantly remember my name if they remember nothing else. I want them to remember my name so they can find me, we can continue to engage, but hopefully they’ll remember a lot. Next is making sure you connect with people on LinkedIn.
So I saw at these conferences I have been attending a lot of, Hi, my name is Paula. Hi, my name is Jane or whatever the other person’s name is and then that’s it. They, you know, are chatting, but they’re not necessarily introducing themselves and saying their first name, first name, last name, or their affiliation, or how they’re connected.
And then they don’t actually take the time to connect. It’s wasted opportunity. And it’s very frustrating because the purpose of you being there in my mind is to connect, right? It’s to there’s so much opportunity that lives in folks who are dedicated to their craft and to building their professional development space.
They’re usually there because they have a growth mindset and they want to be better. And you can be complementary to that process by helping them, right? Who do you know? Who do I know? How can we stay connected and knowledgeable about each other’s trajectory? Similarly using the opportunity to, another brand booster is not just going up to the panelists or other colleagues and taking pictures with them, but telling them you know engaging with them.
What stood out to you about their talk? What questions do you have that you want to follow up? That makes it easier for you to continue relationships or to build and continue relationships. You know, whether that means you want to align with them to have them speak for you. I mean, it happens to me all the time where people come up and like, Paula, you said this thing, I’d love to have you come and speak about this at my organization, which I love, and it’s helpful to be able to say that someone saw me do this, came up to me afterwards, right? It’s actually modeling what I’m often recommending as a best practice. Similarly is acknowledging. So if your organization has sponsored your attendance or you know in some way underwritten it or even if you’ve attended something that’s an offshoot of the core event that you’re going to, I think it’s really important to take the time to send an appreciative note after you return to your manager or supervisor or whomever is in charge of within your workplace making sure that your conferences are underwritten and it’s helpful to do it in this way. So you thank them for, you know, I recently attended X event. Thank you so much for making sure this was a priority in our budget this year. And just so you know, I was able to meet these five people, I attended these sessions and I’m looking forward to hearing more about XYZ, so I followed up… Tell them that you not only experienced it, but you made the experience actionable. And that’s what anybody who is investing in your growth, and wants you to be retained and to stay and elevate, they’re going to want to hear that you’re using the opportunities that they have given you in a constructive way.
And then, so finally, it is, engaging on social media, right? That is a booster because, like I mentioned, people will find you. People will know from you talking about the conference that you attended, right? They’re thinking good things about you. One, that you are connected because you’re taking pictures with people.
Two, you’re at this event so clearly you care about your professional development and your civic engagement, depending on what the conference is. Those are important brand alignment spaces where people want, you know, they’ll fill in the blanks for you, even if you’ve not actually said them. And they would often do that just from a single post or multiple posts.
Another opportunity that you can have is to follow up on attending by talking about some takeaways and deliverables. So oftentimes, and I’m guilty of this, I often will just say, here’s everybody who I saw and here’s all of our selfies. But I’ve seen a lot of posts recently where people are saying, I learned these four things or I’ve, you know, these are the reflection questions that I’ve had recently and this is why I want to do this going forward.
That shows that you’re not just sitting there stagnant, you’re learning and you’re implying and you intend to apply going forward. And that’s awesome. So I have one bonus bruiser that actually two that are brand bruisers that I wanted to talk about before I close. One is neglecting to follow up. So you’ve gone through this whole process of meeting people.
You know, hopefully you’ve done it all in the right way, et cetera. And then either you don’t connect with them on LinkedIn and then send a note, or you don’t send an email to continue the conversation. The reason why I love LinkedIn is because if they change roles, if you change roles, et cetera, is not dependent on your contact information, unless you’re like me and you have a, you know, a business where my contact information will say the same because it’s paula@paulaedgar, that’s my name, right? So, but if not, and I changed my jobs and if we are only email dependent, then I might lose connection with you. So making sure that you connect with folks via social media and in particular, LinkedIn is important and it will bruise your brand if you don’t, right?
And it doesn’t have to be for everybody. I know sometimes when I give this advice, people feel overwhelmed like, Oh, Paula it’s just too much. I met too many people. Think about who, and I do this every day of the conference of this multi day conferences, I will say, of the people who I met, these people are the top five I want to follow up with, right, then that gives me my homework assignment as opposed to me then having to, worry about who and having to connect with, you know, the billion people that I met at the conference.
I’m doing it in piecemeal. And then the last bonus bruiser is when you take all the pictures that I recommended because it is a brand booster. If you leave your name tag on, it is a brand bruiser. Please, all of you, when you’re attending events, if you’re taking pictures in front of a step and repeat or signage for an event, you don’t need your name tag on.
They know where you are. More importantly, the usual, usually how it happens is you’re taking a picture and then you’re posting about it or sending it to someone with the context of what it was. So that even if there’s not signage, you can say this was me at this conference. This was us at this conference.
And when you have a name tag on it just. Especially the ones on the lanyards, especially the ones that block your outfit where you can’t clip on properly, they just don’t look good. So that is a serious pet peeve of mine, and anybody who knows me knows that that’s the case. So that is the end of my, at least initial round, of personal branding, boosters and bruisers, and specific to attending conferences.
I want to hear from you. Is there anything I missed? Do you want to share something else? Any examples? You know, let’s make this something that is a continual thing. So if you go to my website, paulaedgar.com/podcast, you’ll see a link there for the Ask Paula questions. You can submit questions there, or you can also submit your recommendations for additional things you want to add to this content.
I, as always appreciate you listening and I look forward to hearing your thoughts about how conferences and attending conferences can either boost or bruise your personal brand. That’s it for now from Branding Room Only. Please share this with a friend, like the episode and the podcast, and tell a friend. Bye.