Saturday, March 03, 2007
Well, we found BarCamp, and we found Ewan and managed to snatch a few minutes of face-to-face conversation, although, as Ewan remarked, he was gaining a new understanding of what it was like to suffer from ADHD. To be fair, it wasn't really his fault that he couldn't concentrate for more than 30 seconds at a time - there were a great many people looking for his attention.
I wasn't around for long enough to hear much, but I was there for the "Mexican Wave" of self-introductions and heard some of a talk later. One thing struck me very powerfully. Here was a gathering of obviously luminously bright people, some of whom had great new ideas to share, some of whom wanted to impress potential customers - or employers. Yet one very basic and old-fashioned skill was notable, in far too many cases, by its absence. No matter how wired, no matter how skilled in exploiting technology, if you're introducing yourself to a group of any size there are two things to remember. You have to be audible, and you have to engage your audience's interest.
Presumably many of these people were young enough to have had to do a measure of Spoken English at school - but perhaps their teachers weren't careful enough in preparing them for this sort of thing. I couldn't hear the intros of more than half of those speaking, and several people would start ok and then lose it, as in "I'm Henry Kissinger and I'm interested in prom...... mumble mumble." Not much impact there. Words like "support", "diaphragm", "projection" and "pitch" come to mind.
And yes: you may have a fascinating project to share, but no-one, repeat no-one, is going to share your enthusiasm if you bumble about muttering at the computer while your audience stares at the screen, and then bore them all to sleep with the inner workings of your mystery. There are many, many unconverted people out there, and you need all the skills of the televangelist to get them on board.