When self-promotion helps for advancement
I CO-OWN Malaysia’s only dedicated stand-up comedy club, the Crackhouse Comedy Club Kuala Lumpur, with arguably one the best stand-up comedians our nation has produced, Rizal Van Geyzel. Yes, for a Malaysian, his name itself is quite humorous.
We celebrated our third anniversary on April 30 with a fiveday Comedy Carnival. Of the many projects that I have been involved in, this is the least entrepreneurial, but I ventured into this business with my eyes wide open.
Comedians are brilliant to be with and listen to. They make you laugh as they offer quirky perspectives on everyday matters. Like Singaporean Rishi Budrani observed at our Carnival, in essence, stand-up comedians go around telling the truth and make people laugh, unlike many politicians, who do the exact opposite.
These stand-up comedians are very perceptive individuals. But because they are also artistes, volatility is par for the course. Typically, a business month with comedians would involve passionate laughter, dramatic accusations, and bouts of needy anxiety peppered with moments of elated joy.
My three-year expedition into this art-form, as a business, has been both exhilarating and exasperating.
You can say that my sojourn into this business has more to do with my love for stand-up comedy, rather than desire to profit from it. After all, the ability to speak, present and hold an audience’s attention is a skill associated with my profession, too.
My involvement is a labour of love.
While this enterprise isn’t going to make me a tycoon, I have learnt a good deal about people, their attitudes and, perhaps most importantly, self-promotion.
In my book “So, You Want To Get Promoted?”, I have identified five keys that will help you advance at work. The first, is that you need to “Get Noticed”. And getting noticed does entail some form of self-promotion.
I have observed during my time working with stand-up comedians that all of them understand the need to get noticed.
Just like you, they need to be noticed at work for all the right reasons. That simply means they have to be witty, engaging and rib-ticklingly funny “at work” — on stage. They need to let their results speak for themselves. This, of course, is the first step for both you and a stand-up comedian.
But aside from being effective at their craft, I also realised that successful stand-up comedians need to be skilled in the art of self-promotion.
I am sure you got it drummed into your head from a young age that you need to be humble and that if you toiled hard enough and did a good job, you would be recognised for your work and rewarded accordingly.
This is decent advice. But the reality in the modern combative world is that unless you successfully and strategically build your personal brand, you will not be able to progress far.
While being unpretentious is a virtue, do not mistake false modesty and fear for authenticity and humility.
Many people will say that they don’t want to blow their own trumpet. But to paraphrase Captain Edmund Blackadder, played by Rowan Atkinson, in Blackadder Goes Forth — even if you don’t blow your own trumpet, at the very least let people know you have a trumpet.
My dear friend, celebrated stand-up comedian and erstwhile medical doctor, Jason Leong, typifies this principal. While the puritanical might say he is a showoff, I cannot disagree more. He is, without doubt, one of the bright sparkling lights in the Malaysian stand-up comedy scene.
I have learnt three important lessons from Jason on being unapologetic about self-promotion.
The first is that he never actually promotes himself. Rather, he promotes the value he brings to an audience.
Be it on stage, or as a compere, or in a television commercial, it is always about his value proposition. His shout-outs are not about how great he is but about how you will benefit through the laughter he induces in you. His true focus is on the value he offers.
Next is that he never camouflages or conceals the fact that he is engaged in self-promotion. Jason certainly doesn’t insult your intelligence by pretending to be something he is not. He is clear about what he says on Twitter or Facebook. There is no need to read between the lines.
The third and arguably most important lesson is that he has no problem promoting other people. He will publicly recognise your accomplishments and he never hesitates to promote your value.
Of course, being magnanimous serves to subtly highlight his own value. And I am convinced Jason has discovered that when he promotes another person, they become more inclined to promote him.
At work, you need to get comfortable at promoting yourself. This will help you increase your chances of landing a promotion. It will also help you build strong networks, both in your professional endeavours and private life. But remember to stay authentic, just like Jason.