Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Speaking at Media140's DigitalMe conference: "Let's blug - putting the "u" into blogging"

The Media140 DigitalMe day took place last Friday and I spoke in the afternoon - and I have to admit that before I showed up I was a little nervous about speaking at the Northbridge Piazza. I don't know why it felt any different from a lecture theatre or conference hall but being outdoors with a giant screen above my head seemed to change things! Of course, once I arrived and discovered 99% of the audience were sitting on beanbags, I relaxed. The only bad thing was that as a presenter, I had to stand on stage rather than sit in a beanbag. They should look at that for next time round ;-)

Anyway, I wanted to reiterate some of the main points I made in the presentation - all about putting voice into your blog. The title, to be accurate, was "Let's blug: Putting the "u" into blogging"; I wanted to talk about how it's not just enough to have a cool design and post regularly, but that also the way you write is still a really vital part of blogging. I'm a "words girl" at heart, and the words of a blog are important to me, and I want them to be important to other bloggers, too.
My minimalist slides below will give you an overview of what I spoke about ... more details underneath.
Basically, the most important point that I hoped people would take away from seeing the examples I gave was that bloggers who people really take notice of and keep going back to are the ones that have figured out their blog's voice - they've managed to inject their personality into their blog in such a way that readers feel they have a trusted relationship with the blogger, they want to keep reading them and they want to tell their friends about them. When I explain it as putting "you" into your blog, I certainly don't mean that you need to divulge personal or private details, but that you need to write in such a way that readers feel they know you, and they can recognise your writing style, too. The examples I gave came from varied niches, and I also mentioned during the talk that the public-outdoor-venue G-rated nature of the conference meant I'd had to exclude a number of my favourite blogs! This is not to say that I'm usually a reader of Adult-Only blogs, but G-rating is a pretty big restriction. Some of the blogs that lay on my cutting room floor because of that are on this list - the first five are the ones I featured in my talk:
  • Edenland - particular Eden's posts on her World Vision sponsored visit to Niger, Africa - lots of honesty (a good way to have "you" in your blog, but not the only way)
  • Life in a Pink Fibro - from multi-talented freelance writer Allison Tait, and I must admit to calling her the Seinfeld of blogging because some posts are kind of about nothing but I am utterly compelled to read them - that's voice!
  • Why Evolution is True - recommended by a male friend when I realised the target demographic of all the blogs I'd chosen was women - but I agree thoroughly with his recommendation.
  • Aussie on the Road - one of many travel blogs that sound like someone's just having a chat with you - a good way to develop a voice.
  • Styling You an award-winning blog in Australia and actually makes me want to read about fashion despite having no interest in the topic - that's voice, too!
  • Parenting, with Crappy Pictures (I wonder if Amber realised that using "crappy" would mean people would have to exclude her from G-rated days?) - one of the "voiciest" blogs I know!
  • Jeff Goins, Writer - Jeff writes a lot about blogging and even includes some great posts on voice now and again.
  • Free-Range Kids - I've seen a few videos of Lenore speaking and she writes exactly like she talks - and gets her (important) point across.
Hmm. I'm sure there are a stack more great blogs that I eliminated from my presentation for various reasons, but they fail to emerge for me right now, so I'll come back and add to this list later. In the meantime, I summed up the day with a list of "secret rules" to get some voice into your blog, and I think they're worth repeating: 
  • Blog for yourself - not trying to impress, and don't expect everybody to like you - thinking it's a popularity contest will severely limit your ability to have a natural voice 
  • Write what you'd like to read - if I read over my post the next day and actually enjoy it and want to keep reading, I figure I'm doing OK 
  • Blog like you talk - without the ums and aahs - but if you are stuck writing too formally then try to imagine you are just on the phone telling a friend all about the topic, then write it down like that 
  • Break grammar rules (but know them first) - a good rule of thumb for many kinds of writing but works especially well for blogs 
  • Read your posts out loud - this will help you catch posts that sound too stilted or formal 
  • Don't be too slang, and don't be too formal - don't write like it's a text message, but it's not a business report either 
  • Be honest, be daring, be a little afraid - if you're anxious when you hit publish you're probably on a winner 
  • Have your own style (format, word choice) - make an effort to be consistent with how you write so that it sounds like "you" 
  • Write from the heart, no matter what topic - you can be passionate about dishwashers if you want to be! 
Anyway, the presentation went well and generated a bit of talk on Twitter, and some of that's below:

If you've got any examples of your own of blogs with great voice then I'd love to hear about them, so please leave the URLs in the comments below.
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