Monday, April 27, 2015

Adding Value


I went down to Richmond this past weekend for RavenCon. It was my first overnight (two nights actually) away from my little monster man, so I was a bit nervous. Turns out he did great! Though he did need some convincing last night that I wasn't going to disappear again while he slept.

The event was a huge success as far as I was concerned. There were a number of truly excellent panels and workshops, and I met several people that I enjoyed talking to.

Coming away from the weekend, what really struck me was the quality of the presenters in a few of the seminars in particular. I hear the phrase "adding value" quite a lot these days, but it's only now after some of my experiences at RavenCon that I really have a clear picture of what that phrase is about. There are three people I want to highlight as great examples of adding value.

1. Rob Balder

Rob writes the online comic Erfworld. He ran a workshop the first night of the convention about building up a creative career.

It took only a few minutes of his presentation before I realized just how knowledgeable he was on the subject. He said later that he spends 80% of his time working on the business side of his career. He's done the research, crunched the numbers, and put together a business model that works very well for him.

But he didn't end the seminar with his presentation. Instead he spent time talking to people individually about their career goals and brainstorming ideas for building up their own models.

He added a lot of value to me personally, and I left that workshop with so many new creative ideas.

2. John Glover

John is a writer as well as a research librarian, so he was particularly suited to running RavenCon's worldbuilding seminar.

It's so very easy when talking about worldbuilding to get caught up in one particular aspect of a world--perhaps the languages or the geography or the politics. John managed to talk about worldbuilding in a way that covered everything beautifully. He gave lots of ideas for research tools as well as methods for drawing on our own past experiences.

But like Rob, he didn't spend the entire time talking. He gave the audience plenty of opportunities to put what he was saying into practice. I walked out with a whole new take on a book idea. He added value.

3. Harry Heckel

Harry is a writer who, long with his co-author, is publishing a series on fairy tales. In the process he's done a lot of research on the history and purpose of fairy tales, and out of that research he created a presentation on fairy tales and retellings that he shared the last day of the convention.

Harry was a really fun person to listen to. He enjoys what he does, and that joy is contagious. He led the audience in a delightful discussion about fairy tales and made each person feel that their opinion was important and interesting. I felt valued and had a great time.

These three people were all doing something very right. They made their seminars worth attending. So what was it that they all had in common?

First of all, they were all well-informed on the topics they shared. They knew what they were talking about, and yet at no point did any one of them come across as having a big ego. They imparted their wisdom because they cared about building up the audience, not about looking smart in front of a crowd.

And second, they each gave the audience a chance to work with the information. They didn't just dispense tips, they led their attendees in putting those tips into practice.

Because of these three and others like them, RavenCon was a very positive experience for me. I hope I've learned from them not only how to use the information they taught but also how to add value to an audience.

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