Strategic Bragging

Knowing When and Where to Toot Your Own (Business) Horn

(Part 1)

If you Google strategic bragging, it appears my friend Sally Strackbein coined the phrase. And while its use has brought a chuckle to many a room, it’s a serious concept. After all, no one likes a “Me Monster” and I have found that if you must brag, you might as well be strategic about it.

My recent search for a wedding DJ has provided a great example. As it turns out, I’ve found that many professional DJs aren’t able to express their emcee-expert-party-guide personalities over the phone. Instead, they come across as rather awkward and uncomfortable. Go figure. I’ve chalked it up to this: They must need a microphone and an audience to come alive. However, one of the seven DJs I interviewed over the phone had no trouble expressing himself.

This guy – we’ll call him Chuck – referred to himself as “The DJ to the celebrities.” He said he’d deejayed parties for Robert Duvall, Burt Reynolds and the like. While I trust he’d probably do a fine job emceeing a wedding – and creating a memorable experience on one of the most important days of his client’s life – I was clear in telling him this: While his expertise probably warranted his asking price, the fee was more than Maggie and I were willing to invest. That didn’t stop him from keeping me on the phone for an additional five minutes in order to express how great he believes he is and how great everyone else has told him he is – he paraphrased at least three previous clients’ testimonials. This was all done in such a way that it was not necessarily arrogant, but definitely boastful.

Chuck the DJMany weeks later, one Wednesday night at 9:30pm, I received a call from Chuck. He was calling me, seemingly, to pat himself on the back and try to get me to follow suit. The conversation went something like this:

Chuck: “Hey, I heard your friend was going to be able to make it in from Ohio to DJ your wedding. Didn’t I give you the idea to fly him in and have him use another DJs equipment (so he’d make it here in time from having done another wedding the night before in Ohio)?”

Me: “Yes. That was a very creative idea and although that’s not the current plan, discussing it with him certainly opened the door to further conversation and creativity. Thank you for that.”

Chuck: “Well, I was just calling, you know, since you do the whole Driven to Excel thing, to ask you what you thought of my service.”

Me: “How do you mean?”

Chuck: “Well, instead of just sending you on your way, I offered you a creative idea and even had another DJ friend of mine give you a call when he had a cancellation for your day. So I was just wondering what you thought of my customer service.”

Me: “You certainly went above and beyond, Chuck, and I appreciate you for doing that.

Chuck: “Yeah, you know, I could have just sent you packing but I did so much more than that.

Me (thinking to myself): “Is this guy trying to get some kind of consulting/finder’s fee out of me?”

Me (wanting to be certain I had the right guy): “Well, Chuck, if I remember right you’re the ‘Celebrity DJ’ right?”

Chuck (clearly bragging now): “Well, if you consider Robert Duvall, Burt Reynolds, Bill Clinton and Billy Joel celebrities … then yes … I suppose I’m that guy. Heh!”

Me: “Well, you’re certainly confident in what you do. Thanks again for all your help.”

Chuck: “Hey, before I let you go I just wanna share this. I did a party at the Hyatt near Dulles last weekend and just this morning their meeting planner was on the phone with me going on and on about how great I was; how she’d never witnessed a better DJ. In fact, she said that this morning alone she’d referred me to four brides! Now how’s that for a testimonial?!”

Funny thing is, when I asked Chuck if he had any video testimonials from satisfied clients, he told me that (as crazy as it may sound) he didn’t even have one single written review on – a site he himself cited as a resource for couples looking to tie the knot.

Clearly, Chuck has demonstrated (beautifully, I might add) exactly what not to do.

With integrity and professionalism as the foundation for my customer service and sales training curricula, we discuss early on that these are not qualities one can ever claim to possess. It must be demonstrated and demonstrated consistently. Can I be honest with you? It’s like starting a sentence with “Can I be honest with you?” In other words, show, don’t tell.

In part 2, we’ll discuss how you can clearly demonstrate your skill and ability while remaining completely professional, credible – and likeable.


  1. Pretty good story, Steve. Part 1 makes it painfully and annoyingly clear how “ain’t I great” does NOT work. Hurry up with Part 2. I’m afraid I’m about to say something really dumb!

  2. Enjoyed reading the insite, Steve. Thanks for sharing, definitely something to keep in mind when networking!

  3. What a great example of bragging gone bad! It certainly is a fine line and he crossed it several times over. Thanks for sharing this insightful (and humorous) story!

  4. I’m frustrated just reading that story! You were certainly more tolerant that I would be in that situation. Please post Part duex post haste! 🙂

  5. great info!


  1. […] Part 1, I shared about “Chuck” the wedding DJ and his cocky approach to salesmanship. While it’s […]

  2. […] Use your company web site’s “about” page to express what’s in it for the customer, rather than merely a place dedicated solely to tooting your own horn. […]

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