Mixed Reviews on a Class About Blogging
The room was not empty. I was quite grateful for this, as that had been my first fear. LDS Storymakers is primarily a conference for the writers of fiction and I did not know if a presentation on blogging would draw an audience, particularly since I made as clear as possible in the panel description that we would not cover using a blog as a marketing tool. I was grateful that the conference organizers decided to schedule it and then grateful again when people showed up. There were only a few empty seats when I turned on the microphone and began speaking.
The trouble with speaking about blogging is that it covers such a vast array of motivations and means. All blogs are on the internet. All blogs hope to be read by people who are not the writer. Other than that, everything varies. The forms, aims, intents, hopes, and needs of one blog can be polar opposite to those of another. In speaking on the topic I could choose to speak broadly and be mildly useful to most of my audience, or I could narrow my focus in order to be extremely useful to some and completely irrelevant to others. Speaking broadly about setting up a blog or gaining readers did not interest me. I wanted to speak about the creation of content and how to manage the meanness of people on the internet. In hindsight those two halves should have been separate presentations, but I’d welded them together and forged onward.
The first woman left right after I clarified what I would and would not cover. I saw her go and thought that I had done my job well. My introduction made clear that my class would not be useful to her, so she went to find one that would. I was fine and I kept speaking. More people left as my presentation continued. Whatever need had drawn them to my class was not being addressed by my presentation. I began to feel bad about that, wondering if I could have done a better job of clarifying in the class description, but comforting myself that this was just to be expected. One presentation simply can’t address all the issues.
It was a strange experience. I’ve spoken often enough that I have a good sense for when a presentation is working. There is a feedback loop with the audience. They smile, they nod, they quickly write a note, I see these things and direct the speech to emphasize the points which seem to get the most response, even when it takes me off script. My purpose is to be useful, to give information that will help. I stood in front of that class and I saw all the signs of engagement. My audience was with me, or at least half of them were. One by one the others left. When I wrapped up the room was about half full.
I pondered it later when the voices of self doubt began howling that if I’d only been better I could have been useful to them all. My logical brain was, of course, countering that I was glad they quietly and politely went to find something else they needed. They were the ones paying for the conference. They had every right to change lectures if they wished. My confident self noted that several people came to thank me and said my class was very helpful. Yet it is a hard thing to see visible evidence that my words were both exactly what they should have been and not at all what was wanted depending upon who was listening.
No matter what I write or what I say, I can’t be brilliant enough to matter to everyone. My blog collects readers, but it also loses them. The same will be true of my fiction. If I had panicked at the departure of audience and tried to bring them back I would only have been pulled off course. I would have floundered and probably lost even more. Instead I stayed with those for whom my presentation was working and did my best to make it work even better.
I hope I get more chances to speak about blogging. I walked out of that presentation with a hundred ideas about how to divide the presentation into more focused topics. These were things I learned from my audience. The questions they asked taught me what I should have prepared and will prepare next time. One woman came to me in the hallway hours later.
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