|(L to R: Micheline Bourque, Brendan Tully Walsh|
Craig Silverman, Mila Arauja, Julien Smith
When information is cheap, attention becomes expensive ... The future is about focus. We as human beings, we’re trying to maximize our signal and minimize the amount of noise that we’re exposed to. — Brad Frost, Death to Bullshit
As a student, I learned to sit still, listen and take copious notes, and ask the occasional hopefully pertinent question. As a sometimes journalist, the same skills come in handy.
Yesterday, as an event organizer those skills proved useless. Too distracted by mundane tasks, made up tasks to keep nervousness at bay, I resolved to just swim in the stimulus stew and take away what I could. Here’s what stuck:
Mark Schaefer the writer didn’t quite prepare me for Mark Schaefer, teacher and consummate showman. Face it, competition is stiff and teachers need to punch up their delivery to engage even the most enthusiastic students. Mark nailed it.
While many teachers draw on theory, Mark draws on experience and anecdotes to back every idea. The 22 year-old part-time nanny who leveraged the power of Change.org to take on and beat back Bank of
The graphic designer who, with no budget, launched a “destroy
your printer contest”, boosted his employer’s visibility and attracted the
attention of the New York Times. The quirky video blogger, Michelle Chmielewskis,
who got in touch with Mark via Twitter, a relationship that morphed into a
working relationship and, finally, a massive blogger party
under a bridge on the America Seine where no one was
trying to sell anyone anything.
When Mark wasn’t talking about the power of building relationships via social media, he was talking about writing. Finding your voice, consistently doing the work every day to give you readers what they really need, information that will really help them out.
Mark started with big ideas that start to look wonky after the gazillionth time you’ve seen them in a bulleted list—engagement, passion, authenticity—but come alive when surrounded by real context and real people. He also added a newish idea to the mix. Information is great; entertaining information is more compelling.
Starting wide, then whittling it down to the granular, Mark finished by giving attendees concrete and actionable advice on how “to ignite content”.
|(L to R: Mitch Joel and Mark Schaefer)|
During breaks, the room buzzed as people finally met friends and folks, many they’d only met online. I was stoked to see Dino Dogan from Triberr, a surprise attendee, and to meet the scintillating Jillian Jackson. Mitch Joel slipped in and stayed for awhile. I finally got to meet Mila Araujo in person and the dynamic team from Brendan & Brendan. And Jeff Tayler from SBMTL, François Hoang (Aoiro Studio). The list really could go on.
Leading up to the event, all of us at SocialMeex had been pinch-me-I’m-sleeping amazed by the talented people who agreed to participate in the post-workshop panel discussion. Once assembled, that sense of awe only intensified. I mean Mila Araujo, Micheline Bourque, Craig Silverman, Julien Smith and Brendan Tully Walsh sitting at one table. Really?
In their own way, all the panellists echoed what Mark had said. And maybe I'm just wired that way but what I heard was how important writing is, writing well, writing consistently, building then serving your community through writing quality content. In one way or another, everyone seemed to be saying the same thing: Safe sucks.
That whether you’re selling printer cartridges, toilet seat covers or organizing to take down a banking behemoth, build a community garden or champion immigrant farm workers, creating quality content requires taking ideas to the edge and embracing your inner madman or woman.