Last week, I spoke at the MixMedias conference on the topic of making digital content and actually getting paid for it. I had fun and so did the audience.
After my chat, I was making my way through the crowd towards the out door when I was stopped by a young woman.
"I really, really enjoyed your speech and what you had to say!" she enthused.
"Thank you," I replied, "but I don't recognize you."
This is not as creepy as it first sounds. These days, my speeches are essentially interactive, Q&A-heavy challenges, so I tend to make mental notes of faces, outfits and unique accessories of people in the audience.
"Well I wasn't at your speech," she explained. "I was actually at Stowe Boyd's talk. I just followed the Twitter feed from your session."
At first, I was flattered, and thanked the woman. But as I walked back to my office, I was overcome with the inherent weirdness of the situation.
What this meant was that someone--actually about a half-dozen people when I checked--spent their time while I was talking dividing their attention between what I was saying and transmitting it to others.
Meanwhile, others down the hall at Stowe's speech--well, one at least --were dividing their attention between what he was saying and what I was saying...and I suspect what many others were saying.
Yeah, I know this is the new normal. We have all become broadcasters in search of an audience.
But what does it REALLY say and mean?
On one hand, it may be mere multitasking; does anyone really ever do just one thing at a time anymore? Consider yourself right now...what ELSE are you doing right now while reading this?
Despite your answer, frankly, I think it goes much deeper than that.
I remember a great term that came to life at the dawn of the VCR age (ask your parents) but took increased relevance with the growth of the PVR--Time-Shifting. In a nutshell, the recording device freed one from the tyranny of a TV network's schedule, and allowed viewers to "Time-shift" and watch whatever program they wanted whenever they wanted to.
Well, what Time-Shifting was to last decade, Attention-Shifting is to now.
Except that, paradoxically, it happens in real-time.
This says a lot about how modern messages need to be delivered...and how they are ultimately received. This is why, when I find myself on stage these days, I eschew the over-prepared nature of the usual prose and PowerPoint presentations and deliver something hyper-interactive. I try to engage people rather than preach to them, but even in doing so, I pepper the conversation with soundbites so that if one truly feels their role is more of a mouthpiece than an earpiece, more an output rather than an input, more a broadcaster instead of a listener, well...at least I make it easy for them.
Still, I wonder, and sometimes fret, about what is actually being understood. If you're busy broadcasting one point, you're probably missing at least the one following. It's hard to disseminate and contemplate at the same time. I love that. Lemme make it Tweetable:
It's hard to disseminate
at the same time.
So what I did I learn this week? The value of actually listening, I suspect.
And I hope to put this lesson into action as of tomorrow, when I attend the innovative C2Mtl Conference.
I suspect there will be hundreds of people Tweeting, Facebooking, Instagramming, Live Blogging and shouting it out from the rooftops.
And I suspect, like the young woman at MixMedias, you can follow the conference speakers while at the office, your kids' soccer game, the gym, in the bathroom.
One thing I don't suspect, but actually know: there will be one guy there, with a Marc Jacobs designer Moleskine and Zebra fine-point pen, who'll be listening attentively, taking notes, and trying to learn something.