An Unexpected Branding Exercise

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I need new business cards!

That's one of the takeaways from my attendance at TEDxGeneva last Friday. My original goal was to observe and enjoy the curated talks by the diverse panel of young(ish) people who had been invited to speak on the theme ‘The Tide is Rising’ - appropriately sponsored by UNITAR, The United Nations Climate Change, and the World Meteorological Organisation among others.

However, by the end, I was determined to talk to a couple of people I’d been impressed by. My plan was to dangle the possibility of becoming guests on my podcast.

I found my spot in the large auditorium space of this fancy conference centre. Second row, right in the centre, facing the stage, I felt quite studious - am I missing lecture halls perhaps? I’d brought my soft-cover red Moleskine notebook, my water bottle, and my new pink glasses! Clear vision, straight on!

At the end of the talk, which closed with the textured serenades of a West African griot, aka a traveling poet, I gathered my courage and went in search of my intended targets, since we were all invited to the post talks aperitif.

I first zoned into 18-year-old activist Amy Meeks. What, you think that's young? Think again friends! Amy started campaigning in her Nottingham neighbourhood at the tender age of 8, with her sister Ella!

‘It stinks, pick it up!’

That's the slogan of their original campaign, meant to mobilise their community to keep streets clean from dog poop. Later on, they grew more concerned about the environment after studying the UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development (worth a read btw) and discovering the true impact of plastic pollution to 'life under water' (goal number 14 out of the 17 outlined by the UN for 2030).

That's how they were inspired to create their own charity, Kids Against Plastic. While her new talk isn't online yet, that's okay, Amy's first TEDx talk with her sister Ella is available to view here.

Do you see why I wanted to go and speak to her? So I did.

First off, maybe it's been a while since I've met people (!!!!!!!!!), new people, and maybe I don't know how it works anymore, but I got surprised by my own emotions.

Standing in front of this cheerful and talented kid, I felt a bit... star struck? I mean what was I doing at 18? Singing... LOL! I love the arts, I'm not sure I can say I was doing much to better life on this planet.

After a brief chat, she seemed engaged in the idea of coming on to my podcast and I handed her my old business card for AVM Consulting which I promptly made in 2017 after leaving my previous job.

You may think it’s not a significant problem. I disagree. Well for starters, it's the wrong business, there is a French phone number next to the Swiss one, and it's no longer valid. It's a Gmail address, and there is no website.

Okay, I can defend myself by saying that at least my cards are BEAUTIFUL.

Thanks to a previous branding partner, Charles, for finding an artisan printer in the north of France who created beautiful cards, embossed on one side, debossed on the other. So nice actually, I'd venture they are almost impossible to throw away so substantial is their feel. Plus, you know, sustainability.

While Amy, and her dad, didn't seem to mind, I did. Anyway, she said she'd love to be interviewed so I did a good enough job selling the podcast. That or she is, like me, the enthusiastic kind. It’s possible.


I moved on and scanned the crowd for David Dao.

Thankfully, I hadn't quite understood the breadth of his impressive curriculum when I walked up to him. I forgot to remind you as well that I am shy.

Most people think I'm not, because I've spent years working on this, covering it up, but this shyness manifests in ways that I cannot always control. In that case, I didn't dare interrupt two ladies who were talking to David about his work with indigenous tribes via his non-profit GainForest, a decentralised fund using artificial intelligence to measure and reward sustainable nature stewardship.

After five minutes (which felt like five hours), I managed to squeeze myself into the conversation - aka squeeze a few words out of myself - and for some reason, this time I felt quite incapable of presenting myself or the podcast. Oops.

David, cheerfully, indulged in our chat and seemed personable. I'm not sure I'd call me if I had met me that night.

Minutes later, it dawned on me that most podcasters first approach guests via email. In writing, we get to present, explain, add links, assets to show our future guests the reasons why we'd be a great choice for an hour conversation. Also, we carefully get to craft our message. A very different experience than blurting something out over canapes, which is what I did.

Mind you, I should add that many podcast booking agencies out there send cold emails to hosts like myself trying to place their clients without doing the due diligence of checking whether the show is relevant to them (think demographics, location, target audience). So not everyone crafts their messages so carefully.

At first I was flattered to be approached, before I realised they were really just after quantity, not quality of interviews. But I digress.

I launched my podcast in the middle of a pandemic. I was barely talking to anyone IRL, face to face, for months, aside from a handful of friends and family members, most of whom couldn't care less about the podcast.

So is it any wonder that now, in a real life scenario, at a conference, I was failing to make a salient point or explain who I was and what I do. Combine all of these factors with my multi-hyphenate life career choices, I’m not making it easy for myself.

It's unlikely that I will interview David Dao, although I will follow up in writing. Let’s see how he feels after he reads up on me and discovers the show.

At least he'll remember me. When I excused myself, he said: 'I’m not sure about the interview, but great card'. At least, I made an impression.


I have my work cut out for me, what with two more conferences upcoming in Zürich and Basel.

So what to do? I am not a fan of the 'elevator pitch', and since we won't be in the elevator of a high rise, I assume that my approach should reflect the environment I'm in.

Some of you reading me are consultants, freelancers, others have moved around, like me, and may at some point find yourself in a similar situation. You maybe have multiple specialties, not all reflected in your title. Or even you have a job but you also do freelance work on the side. If that’s your case, read on.

When I first heard it, I hated the word personal branding. I know, hate is a strong, but the reason is simple: in my mind, a person is not a brand, unless you are an influencer, and they aren’t a big source of personal inspiration for me.

But podcast guest/host/new friend Dr Andrea Wojnicki changed my opinion, in a 180, and convinced me that not only is it important to consider your personal brand carefully, but also it's worth making deliberate choices about how we want to be perceived. As she says:

“We all have a Personal Brand, whether we choose to strategically manage it or not."

She explains:

“Think of your personal brand as what people say or think about you when you leave the room.” She goes over the many principles that help create a strong personal brand in this episode of her show Talk about Talk.

I felt silly when I thought back at my unpreparedness. I am normally pretty careful and considered. My friend Joke said to me last night: “You always seem to have your shit together.” Now I’m thinking I need to tell her this story.


Well I’ve prepared a short non-elevator pitch blurb that I’ll be practicing with my friends to refine and ease myself into it. Whether you’re a CEO or a solopreneur, you don’t get good at this without practice.

Here it goes:

“Hey, I’m Anne. I am a communications consultant, a coach and a mindfulness teacher.

Also I have a podcast called Out of the Clouds, where I use these diverse skills (or hats) in long-form interviews with entrepreneurs, teachers, designers, artists. I help people tell their story.

Like me, the podcast stands at the crossroads between business and mindfulness. I’d love to send you some further information about it and see if you’d like to be a guest on the show. Can I get your contact details? And here’s my card.”

What do you guys think? Would you indulge me?

I passed my own test, I’d call me after that, or at least e-mail back.

With this new venture, I still have quite a bit to do. So here’s my personal tip sheet, which I probably may add onto and that you may want to borrow from.

Finally, remember, this can be WIP (work in progress). And unlike Rome, it doesn’t need to be set in stone.

But I believe it’s valuable to be deliberate and to put something clear out into the world, especially when we are seeking new connections, clients, or guests.

Do you know whose personal brand exercise I should copy? David Dao’s. See below.

He really got it right for his personal brand. What do you think?

Until next week, friends.