The Art of Stepping Aside to Stand Out


As small business owners and entrepreneurs most of us struggle to have our voices heard over the relentless onslaught of advertisements and competitor taglines that our customers are confronted with almost daily.

Many businesses owners try to be as loud as they can with their messaging hoping something sinks in – and for many companies it works. Large conglomerates like Coca-Cola and McDonald’s have the marketing budgets to go for quantity and volume to get their message on top.

But what about us? Those of us with budgets with only 2 or 3 zeros can’t win in that arena…we can’t even play.

There is something we can do to stand out though- and bear with me on this – we can stand out by letting someone else have the spotlight.

Let me explain:

Almost always, when given an opportunity to deliver our “30 second commercial”, send a press release or speak in front of a group, most of us take great care to talk about nothing but ourselves, our businesses, our promotions, our service, our something…ad nauseum…. until someone tells us to stop.

Heads up – after a while, nobody listens.

Let me explain how to Step Aside to Stand Out, by sharing with you two stories that illustrate the point much more clearly than I could ever explain:

Story 1: I went to a luncheon where each of the 40 attendees were given 30 seconds to toot their own horn. At about toot number 22, I noticed there was a lot of texting and phone surfing going on. A few people actually snuck out for a quick break.

Then suddenly, at about toot number 24 my ears perked up because I heard this:

“I’m Mary Smith with Smith Company. Rather than talk about myself, I’d like to say a big thank you to someone who has helped me tremendously in the last few months….” She then mentioned another attendee, their company name, and gave a quick overview of the top notch service she received.

Let me tell you….everyone was listening. They even applauded.

And I am quite certain we were all thinking the same thing “Wow, Mary is great. I like Mary. I want to be friends with Mary” For the rest of the day, we thought about Mary. We talked about Mary.  We told others about Mary.

And more importantly, the only introduction we remembered from that day’s luncheon was Mary’s.

That my friends, is Stepping Aside to Stand Out.

Story 2: A while back I heard a successful entrepreneur give the keynote speech at a business seminar. He talked about his company and the struggles he went through to get the biz off the ground. I noticed he would make comments such as “A friend had a marketing company and steered me in the right direction…” and “…my buddy from college, who is now a professional photographer did all the photos….” and “I was able to get office space for free from another business owner that believed in me…”

About halfway through, I remember thinking “Jeesh, can’t you at least give these people who helped get you where you are a measly 2 second plug”?

At lunch after, I discovered I wasn’t the only one who noticed (and was not impressed with) his style of saying thanks without losing his place in the spotlight. So in essence, if he was hoping to get some good PR out of the event, it backfired.

So pretty much, if you think of a recent business or networking event, where you bored to tears by the onslaught of memorized, flowery-language, self-serving monologues – vow to “not be that guy”. Vow to always give credit where credit is due. Vow to lift someone else up if you have the opportunity.

Step Aside to Stand Out instead.

That small step will do wonders for a fellow business owner who helped you succeed, and it will show the audience that you do not shy away from giving credit where credit is due.

Hold on though….Here are the three requirements for this to work:

Be Sincere: You must be sincere. You must genuinely want to give up your place in the sun for someone else. The minute you start thinking “I’ll talk about how great Bob is and then everyone will think I am great”, we will see through it and think you are a  lot of things…great not one of them.

Follow the Rules: If you are next in line to say your name and company only – then say your name and company only. There’s nothing more annoying than someone who takes time that they were not given. It is rude and pompous. Even when you are not talking about yourself.

Don’t Overdo It: If you thank someone every time you are given a microphone, it comes off as insincere. Don’t go over your time limit. Also, for heaven’s sake, don’t cry.

Have a great story about Stepping Aside to share? Please do so!






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