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Putting Lipstick on a Pig: Are You Selling Your Content Short?

People seem to come in two groups: Those who love to mug for the camera and those who are as uncomfortable in front of the lens as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. I can empathize with the second group.

Recently, I was developing professional speaker credentials to promote a seminar. Headshot pictures submitted to accompany the bios ran the gamut. A few were well-lighted, professional portraits. One was a “my mates took this camera phone shot of me in a pub last night.” The majority were the ever popular, “firing squad” mug shot: the victim, er, subject (frequently sporting casual-Friday attire) is lined up against the office wall, under the harsh glare of the fluorescent overhead lights and apparently forced to smile under penalty of torture as a co-worker snaps a shot. You may recognize this photographic genre if you have renewed your driver’s license lately.

My goal for all the subjects of these photos is to present them in the most credible and professional light, as peers who are recognized experts on their topics. I use all the digital enhancements at my disposal to try to make everyone on the roster look like the “smartest guy in the room”—not in the Enron sense. I balance color, even out skin tones, remove the odd shadow that looks like a back-of-the-head Afro, and even fix stray hair, but there is a limit to my magic. If you give me a bad photo, there is only so much I can do with it. After a while, I’m just putting lipstick on a pig.

If you have been tapped to speak as an expert, make sure your personal presentation projects a level of quality and professionalism equal to your content. Get a professional headshot—despite the word “shot: it won’t kill you. Your bio and headshot are the “wrapping” that sets the expectation for the content. You want to look as good as your material is.

The seminar audience may have its first introduction to some of the speakers through the materials they receive. First impressions can be lasting ones. If you are not prepared to impress, you cannot rewind, erase and replay the opportunity.

Don’t make me break out the lipstick!

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Six Degrees of ... : You're only as good as your network

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