Thursday, March 13, 2008

Tooting My Own Horn

I've been reading a great book called "Brag! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It" by Peggy Klaus. This is exactly the kind of book an author—or just about anybody who needs to communicate with the outside world—should read. It's so hard for many of us to explain in a concise and captivating way what makes us—or what we do—interesting, unique and worth paying attention to.

It seems to me creative types often have an acute difficulty when it comes to talking about themselves and their work. (I've noticed lawyers don't seem to have this problem.)

The sad truth is that even though I've been through this book twice, I'm still going to need to read it a half dozen more times. It's not easy to conceive, polish and deliver a "bragalogue" in a way that's smooth, natural and customized to the audience for maximum impact. I talk in front of groups all the time, but I feel I always have room for improvement.

When I speak to librarians, for example, I like to breakdown why I think my Joe Sherlock: Kid Detective books make a great read for kids, especially reluctant readers. I've been able to create a list in my head of bullet points that I can know rattle through with ease. I can deliver this stump speech in 20 seconds or 2 minutes. It goes like this:

• They're laugh-out-loud funny—parents often find themeselves tickled as much as the child they're reading to
• They have short chapters—that sense of accomplishment comes fast and furious
• They have illustrations on almost every page—a must for the reluctant reader
• Every chapter ends with a cliffhanger—they can't stop reading and they don't know why
• They're each stuffed with some kind of time pressure—a ticking clock always ups the ante
• Joe Sherlock is enthusiastic and good-hearted—although he's a natural-born bumbler
• Joe Sherlock is no Encyclopaedia Brown or Hardy Boy—he's just and Average Joe, so kids can relate to him
• Girls also like the books because of Hailey, the younger, smarter sister who delivers all the zingers

Let me tell you, it's a relief to have this stump speech in my back pocket; I can always pull it out when I need it. The key is planning and foresight and being loaded for bear wherever you happen to go. No matter if you're an author, a teacher, a librarian, a mom, a bright-eyed kid or a plumber, you've got an interesting story to tell—but it's all in the telling!

So what do you do? The next time someone asks you what you do for a living, will you be ready with something that will knock their socks off, complete with illustrative examples, memorable anecdotes and catchy phrases? There's no more valuable utensil to have in your toolbox than a pithy but powerful "bragalogue" that will make you hard to forget and easy to like. So get started today.

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