How to get more visibility

I hear a lot of people worrying about getting more visibility. While I think visibility is important, I think worrying about visibility is the wrong way to go about it. Worrying about visibility makes people do weird, self-centered things.

If you want to be more visible, talk more about other people! Meet people, listen to them, laugh with them, spread their story.

Here are a few simple things that I think raise your visibility:

  1. Talk about what’s exciting to you. Talk about things you think are exciting – not things that you think will make you sound cooler. Blog about things you find exciting, not just what you are working on. (Hopefully you are working on things you find exciting!)
  2. Don’t worry about getting credit. I read lots of advice – especially for women – that says be sure to speak up for yourself, “toot your own horn”, make sure people know what value you add. Maybe they are right, but I think what you are working on will come across if you talk about what’s exciting to you and you promote others.
  3. Promote others. It seems counter-intuitive, but I think it’s much more important to advocate for what other people are doing than it is to point out what you contributed. First off, it’s much more effective. People are much more likely to be impressed when you tell them this awesome person you know planned an awesome event which got 20 developers together and in a weekend they wrote all this awesome code for this awesome program that does this awesome thing … you get the picture. Much cooler to talk about other people. They are much more likely to believe you and to be impressed. And to retell the story. And who knows? Maybe some of the karma will rub off on you. Either way, you’ve made a difference. You’ve helped spread the word of a great project or person.
  4. Listen to others. Listen to people, read their blogs. Actively listen, show that you’ve heard, ask questions, leave comments. People like being part of a conversation. People like being heard. They are more likely to remember you than the person that talked at them. And you are more likely to learn something really cool you can tell the next person about.
  5. Don’t worry about how important someone is (or isn’t). You shouldn’t be afraid of speaking to “important” people. A GNOME developer once told me he was afraid of speaking to famous people on the project – it took him years to work up the courage. Believe me, my first couple of days as Executive Director of GNOME, I didn’t feel very important, I felt rather intimidated myself! And you shouldn’t consider hanging out with “unimportant” people a waste of time.  We all make a difference and you won’t know what cool things they are doing until you talk to them. (One exception: if someone is boring you to death, it’s best to move on. They can tell you are bored. If you are stuck with them, ask more questions, you probably haven’t found their passion yet.)
So my advice to raise your visibility, for what it’s worth, is meet people, listen to them, laugh with them and spread their story.