A couple years ago I took an Oral Interpretations class, mostly because I liked the teacher. The class was basically about how to read out loud well. We recited poetry, dramatic monologues, and radio programs, and had a good time in general.
The teacher, Ms. Ivey, gave us this piece of advice to combat public speaking jitters: “Remember. When you are speaking, you are giving the audience a gift.”
Of all the public speaking advice I’ve received over the years in various classes and from various teachers, this has stuck with me and helped me the most. When I’m standing in front of an audience, with that shaking, sinking feeling, her words come back to me.
“You are giving the audience a gift.”
Suddenly, the focus shifts. It’s not about me and the likelihood of my failure, it’s about blessing the audience. They’re not judging me. People don’t pick apart gifts to make sure they’re good enough, they accept gifts and are thankful for them.
I’ve begun to try to apply this philosophy to other areas of my life as well. Specifically, the world of online creative content.
It seems to me that lately everything in the world is about branding. This was a hugely pervasive idea in the Journalism program at UO–that you had to figure out immediately who you were, who your audience was, what you wanted to prove–and subsequently brand yourself as such.
Think about the blogs that get the heavy traffic. The Instagrammers who get thousands of likes on their photos. They do certain kids of posts so that certain kinds of people swarm to them. They may be “the fashionable one,” or “the cook,” or “the mountain climber.”
They have a brand.
Personally, I find this sad and somewhat scary, to think of the pressure to find a brand to garner fleeting attention. Because brands don’t bless people. Brands don’t have consciences. Brands exist solely to sell product.
I don’t want to live in a world where everyone is trying to sell me something.
So today, as I circled around a field, disking the soil into bits, I thought maybe I should think of the web as a place to give gifts, instead of a place to create a brand.
If you post something funny on Facebook, or link an interesting article, someone will enjoy that you did that. It’s a gift. As long as one person gains value from it, it’s a successful gift.
Conversely, if you post an Instagram picture and only three people like it, it’s not a very successful brand.
There’s a freedom in this, because there’s nothing to prove. You don’t have to figure out if you want to be the bookworm or the happy mommy or the political junkie. You can bless the world by just being you.
So, you’re welcome for this blog post (insert humble curtsy), and thank you to everyone who has blessed me with interesting articles on Facebook, pretty picture on Instagram, and nice comments on this blog.