Proud to Be the Brag Lady

If anyone knows the importance of self-promotion, it's a Hollywood insider. Peggy Klaus, who began her career as an actor, producer, and director, has since parlayed her understanding of the art of selling yourself into a successful career coaching professionals on presentation strategies, executive presence, and "effective bragging."

Klaus began to explore the issue of bragging when a client asked for help with the company's marketing efforts. "When I asked them to give me their marketing spiel, it was really quite awful. It was generic and boring, both in content and delivery. Then it dawned on me—I asked each of the individuals to tell me about themselves and what they do, and it was worse," she says. She began to realize that people have difficulty expressing their accomplishments, largely because they were taught as children that it is inappropriate to brag.

"When I say 'brag,' it is a four-letter word," says Klaus. "Which is exactly why I use it—it is very deliberate." What Klaus advocates is not arrogance, but "the ability to communicate who you are in an interesting way," which she believes is essential to achieving success. This acknowledgment of the significance of self-promotion created a stir that surprised even Klaus and began to overshadow her other messages. "About a year ago I got nervous," she says. "I thought, 'Oh God, I'm the brag lady.' "

Although Klaus has become best known for her presentations on bragging, her favorite topic is executive presence, which she defines as mastering the ability to exhibit both warmth and strength as a leader. "When someone errs on the side of warmth, they are thought of as too easy, not able to make the tough calls, too nurturing . . . On the other hand, if they are too strong, they come off as 'the b-word,' strident, arrogant, aloof, difficult, not a team player. We have a narrow band of acceptable communication," she says.

Klaus explains the value of tailoring communication to a specific audience, and explores how to do so without losing yourself in the process. "Each audience that we deal with hears information differently and so we have to be chameleons. It doesn't mean you have to lose your authenticity, but it does mean that you have to have a range of skills and adapt so that your audience can understand you," she advises.

Klaus prides herself on offering sessions that are fun, energetic, and interactive, though they may not be easy. Following one talk, Klaus says, "A woman came up to me and said, 'You know, Peggy, your workshops should come with a warning label: This is going to be really scary and you'll do things you never thought you'd do, but by the end, you'll be really happy—that it's over. But you'll learn a lot!' "

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