Promote Yourself

How NOT to Self-Promote

Over the Summer, my 17 year old cat Habibi (means dear friend in Arabic) started waking me up before the sun at 4:30 am. While I consider myself an early riser, 4:30 is waaaay too early for me.

He’s hungry and relentless at that hour. Breathing (purring) in my face, swatting my cheeks with his paws, walking across my chest, hooking his claws into my nose.

When I pull the handmade quilt my mother-in-law made us over my head, he swats at that, too.

That’s when, reluctantly and with a few choice words, I get out of bed. I don’t want him to rip the quilt.

Grey and white catFor as much joy Habibi has brought to us for 17 years, at 4:30 in the morning when he’s hungry and has no regard for my sleep, he is, in a word: ANNOYING.

Yes, in the end he gets what he wants (breakfast) yet I couldn’t help but think of how this relates to promoting our services, vision or ideas.

The Trouble with Self-Promotion

So many people, mostly highly accomplished women, tell me they have trouble promoting themselves. And if you read my story, you’ll see I struggle(d) with this too.

Let’s face it – it’s so much easier to promote someone else! 

But, whether you work for a company or own one, your ideas deserve to be heard. And until others know about those ideas, it’s up to YOU to talk about them.

One of the biggest obstacles is thinking that promoting your services or ideas is about YOU. (If this message sounds familiar, it’s because I’ve written about it before. You can read that post here.)

It’s NOT about you.

And that’s what makes Habibi’s early morning routine so bothersome. 

It’s all about HIM without giving any thought about what others need.

Think Differently About Self-Promotion

Below are a couple of human examples:

Example 1: The Presentation

I recently worked with a small group of non-profit leaders in preparation for their board meeting. They needed to present difficult financial information to a hostile audience.

So, I asked them, “Given what you know about your audience and the information you need to present, what is your true role here?” 

For your reading sake, I’ll speed this up and give you a hint: Their role is NOT to present difficult financial information. It’s to alleviate any tension and worry associated with hearing that message. 

Because when your listener does not feel heard and all you do is push your ideas on them, they get annoyed. Or worse, offer you a few choice words.

Example 2: The Networking Event

Here’s what an attendee at one of my Virtual Café’s said after her first meeting:

I came to your event thinking it was all about me and how I could grow MY business. But I realize networking is so much more than that. It’s also about how I can support others in growing their business. And that feels so much better.

Can we all agree that no one likes the pushy networker who is only in it for themself? We make connections by showing people we care. Not telling people how great we are.

The Bottom Line

Sure, you can get what you want by breathing in someone’s face (not Covid compliant), pawing at their back and annoying them into buying whatever you’re selling but is that REALLY how you want to be remembered?

I’ll bet money that the answer is NO, it’s not. So, my thoughtful, high-achieving, purpose-driven readers who sometimes struggle to promote yourself – when speaking to the board, at a conference or networking event, on video or on a podcast – remember it’s not about you. It’s about the solution you to have to the problem they need solved. 

#shedtheformality and dig deep to get at the true message and the impact it will have on your listener.

That’s how you promote yourself.

Your turn to talk to me

  1. Have annoying yet lovable pets? Tell me about them!
  2. What’s the most annoying way you’ve ever seen someone promote themselves?
  3. What’s the best way you’ve seen someone promote themselves? 

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About the blog

Humor, stories, and insights, delivered 2x per month, to perform without the pressure.

Topics include mental health, work, human connection, creativity and more.



  1. Angela Capinera on October 12, 2021 at 10:50 pm

    My kitty Bruce is climbing all over me as I read this. Annoying is when people put on the slickster act. I hate it. Best, they talk about their clients and wild client stories.

    • Stacey Shipman on October 13, 2021 at 7:41 am

      Hi Angela! (and Bruce!) Agreed on the slickster act! Be genuine, useful, caring instead. Oooh, wild client stories – I’m intrigued! Thanks for being here!

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