Last Sunday, I drove up the Sea-to-Sky highway to Squamish to attend The Canadian Internet Marketing Conference.
I was actually there to do more than attend. Last year, Darian (one of the conference organizers), had asked me if I’d participate, as part of a panel. The panel, as it turned out, ended up being the biggest panel of the conference. There were 7 of us on stage, and we were to address using social media in a B2B setting to market your business.
We knew some of the questions we’d be asked up front, but we also knew that in-the-moment questions would come from the audience, and from twitter.
I’ve been doing these kinds of things for years–most of my adult life, actually. Maybe not always specifically around social media, but speaking in front of groups has a been a huge part of my career, so I’m not generally super nervous before things like this.
I do tend to be less nervous when I’m more prepared, though, but this time I could only prep so much. There was a certain unknown factor that I had no control over. Simply put, I just didn’t want to end up looking like an idiot.
Now, I’m not a fashionista. I like clothes the same as the next girl, but if I could go through my whole life wearing yoga pants and flip-flops, I’d be completely content. But this day, I decided to dress up a bit.
Dressing up helps with two things: first of all, people judge us on how we look. We all do it, it’s not some horrible thing. It’s just how things are. So, I wanted to look like someone who maybe knew something about social media (whatever that looks like!?). More than that, though, I dressed up for myself. Wearing a cute outfit, as silly as it seems, helps to make me feel more confident.
So, I put together a pair of black-and-white printed pants, a white blouse, and and a black suit jacket. I finished the whole thing off with a pair of shiny red wedge heels.
Now, I may not be a fashionista, but I do have a weakness for pretty shoes. And more than anything I wear, a nice pair of heels make me feel strong and confident. Plus this particular pair of Vince Camutos is really comfortable, as well.
The panel went well, I managed to not say anything that made me look dumb (I think), and I even managed to get a couple things in that I felt were valuable.
Now, live-tweeting is kind of my super power. If I were giving a talk, I could never do this, but because we were on a panel, I was checking tweets, and sending a few while other people were talking (mostly quoting their words of wisdom). While checking the tweets, I noticed this one:
— Brit Bachmann (@britbachmann) March 29, 2015
Now, there were 2 other women on the panel with me, Vicki McLeod (who is a dear friend and colleauge), and Katt Stearns, whom I’d only met an hour before. Katt was sporting a fabulous pair of heels–high, pointy, black, and strappy, and I had, in fact, even remarked something to Vicki earlier about how much I loved Katt’s shoes. Long story short (or longer??), our shoes became the object of attention for a while. It was funny. It was silly. We went along with it.
— Rebecca Coleman (@rebeccacoleman) March 29, 2015
But then, I was like, waitaminit!! What did I want to be known for? What did I want to be remembered for? As the girl with the good shoes, or as the girl who had some really smart things to say about social media?
I’ve been chewing on this all week. I understand the concept of personal branding (although in my case, it was more accidental than planned). Mari Smith, for example, will often be seen wearing teal, her favourite colour. It’s part of her personal brand.
Katt, as an example, is way more about shoes being part of her personal brand, than probably even I am:
But I couldn’t help but wonder: if I were a dude (even in good shoes), would I have gotten the same attention?
I’m not going to use my blog as a political platform. I’m pretty upfront about my feminist ideology. But it got me to thinking: what do I want to be known for?
Obviously, I want to be known for being more than just a pair of pretty shoes. And I’m not saying I wasn’t. There were lots of tweets flying around about the stuff I was saying.
— Stephanie (@stephfowler_) March 29, 2015
I also have no desire to walk into a situation like that dressed plainly, with no makeup, and my hair pulled back in a ponytail. Everyone wants to make a good first impression. It’s human. But what did I want to be remembered for?
One thing that I think is important to recognize here, is that sometimes things we have in common with others gives them a way in. Just as I felt a sisterhood or connection with Katt over our shared love of a good pair of heels, folks in the audience connected with me over my shiny red peep-toes. When I’m in a new social situation, I’ll often walk up to someone and compliment them on something they are wearing, as a way of breaking the ice… getting in the door.
In my case, I didn’t really want to be remembered for being the girl with the red shoes. I wanted to be remembered for the smart things I said. Were my shoes a distraction, or were they a way to make me more relatable?
I would love to hear your thoughts.