Presenting Your Personal Brand: Studies Show Less Is More

When it comes to your personal brand — your biography, LinkedIn profile and more — scientific evidence shows more isn’t necessarily better.

Indeed, psychologists identified a phenomenon known as the “Presenter’s Paradox,” which states that mentions of your minor qualifications can detract from your major strengths. Writing in Harvard Business Review, author and scientist Heidi Grant said it is a “fascinating example of how our instincts about selling…can be surprisingly bad.”

Here’s a hypothetical illustration of the Presenter’s Paradox in action:

Attorney Jane Doe’s biography states that she went to a top law school, achieved a multimillion-dollar jury verdict, and earned “Lawyer of the Year” designation from a regional bar association. These are all impressive qualifications — each ranking 10 on a 10-point scale. Jane’s bio ends with a tacked-on sentence: “During college, Jane had an internship with a software company.” It’s a brief mention of a gig that suggests limited responsibility and relevance, so it’s maybe a 3.

We often think “more is better,” so 10 + 10 + 10 + 3 would give Jane a 33, right? Wrong. The Presenter’s Paradox shows that instead of cumulating your score of credentials, audiences actually average it out. So, 10 + 10 + 10 + 3, divided by four, is 8.25. By adding in a minor qualification, Jane dragged down her average. She actually became less appealing.

For more information on the Presenter’s Paradox – and how to make your best case for you – check out my full article in Forbes.