NerdCon: Stories – I Learned a Thing or Four

Now, as you may know, I’m working very hard on becoming one of the people on the other side of these events. Which means becoming one of the people making a fool of myself on stage or waxing philosophical on the panel. So I may have been listening for different things than other people. But, then again, with how many storytellers were there, probably not.

Lesson 1: Social Media Isn’t Always Social or Media

So, I went to a couple panels around social media and life online and communicating through all these tools. And I realized that the panelists weren’t online in the same way. Which lead me to formalize a bit of what I’d seen online.

Basically, there are three kinds of people on Social Media:

Creators: I figured this out by listening to Hank Green. He was describing his relationship with the internet and it struck me that he’s producing content, putting it online, sensing the response and making more content. It’s not that different from a TV or Movie producer. He’s active, he’s prominent, but for him the internet is more of a platform for saying what he wants to say.

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My favorite story of the con: The lonely little balloon trapped in the auditorium walls.

Curators: This is a group that was not in the panels, this I found more among the audience. The people who signal boost. Who find the cool interesting things and RT, comment on, promote and make the content visible. Who slice off the content from the creators and categorize it.

Conversers: This is where MOST (not all) of the authors fell. Yes, they’re creating a story of their tweets, instagram, tumblr, etc. but they’re not tasting the response. They’re feeling them. It’s a conversation they engage in with others.

I think all of us fall into different categories depending on the site, the moment, and the tool.

I’m ABSOLUTELY a converser on Twitter. I have no interest in acquiring followers and rarely RT anything unless I’m ready to engage in conversation about it.

But, I’m a curator on Pinterest. That’s my small collection of the internet that inspires me and if other people like it, so be it.

And I suppose this blog is where I create. It’s for you to see me in a way I can’t see you.

Lesson 2: How to Moderate Like a Pro

In a more concrete lesson, Mary Robinette Kowal (http://maryrobinettekowal.com/) is my new favorite moderator and here’s why:IMG_1671

She took control of the room: Before the session even started she addressed the audience, explaining that she would take questions before to guide the conversation to match their expectations. She reminded us of how questions work (if you’ve never been in a panel session at a con do not underestimate the value of this!!!) This won the audience over and their trust for her which settled everyone down.

She guided the conversation: Instead of asking the questions she took in the order and format she received them she stopped, rephrased, and reordered. She made it a cohesive conversation. Dare I say: it had a plot structure. It was going somewhere.

She cared about the topic: Before the panel even started. Before NerdCon:Stories even started, the panel that I saw her moderate had drama. There was a misunderstanding of the title, the topic, the flavor of the conversation. And Mary Robinette Kowal came into those conversations and said “Don’t worry, I’ve got this” and she did! The title changed, the topic was addressed respectfully. The panelists were not asked to overstep their experiences.

So, I tell you, if you ever have a chance to attend a panel moderated by Mary Robinette Kowal do it! (Sorry, Wesley Chu (http://wesleychu.com/), you’re still my second favorite with your Jeopardy style moderation approach.)

Lesson 3: Don’t Be Afraid to Look Silly

In the mainstages there was a whole lot of silly. There were foods that were not foods being tasted. There was juvenalia read aloud. There were actual people actually lobbying for sock-shoe-sock-shoe as if that were a thing! They were not afraid of how people looked at them.

I found new fandoms. Authors gained my respect because they weren’t trying to be cool. They weren’t talking non-stop about their books or how well they were selling. They were being themselves—they were being storytellers.

Be silly, follow the mood of the audience, give the people what they want. Even if it’s a ninja roll entrance because you were 30 seconds late for a panel.

Lesson 4: Don’t Be Afraid of Yourself

For the rest of my life Jeffrey Cranor (http://www.happierman.net/) will be the man who made me cry. Whenever I see his name on Twitter. Whenever I hear it spoken on Welcome to Night Vale intros (http://www.welcometonightvale.com/ – my favorite entertainment podcast ever and you should listen to it!) He put himself out there in a way that has me misting up even as I write this. And all he did was read a poem.

He gave the audience a part of himself in that story and it was a gift.

It made me less afraid of being myself the rest of that day.

It made me less afraid of the people around me, because if someone who writes the most absurd small town in the desert and makes people question dog parks can also make them cry, then I can be any of a thousand things at the same time and it’ll be alright.

 

So, there you go, these were the lessons I took away from NerdCon: Stories. There were more things I observed in their system processes, but I knew those already. That’s part of my DayJob. I’d wax philosophical on those for far too long. (Let’s just say, it’s always best to relieve the burden of problems from volunteers. Anything resembling a problem should go to people capable of making decisions to smooth out the end-user experience!) (See! DayJob nerding. I can’t help myself!!!)

So, suffice it to say, even if NerdCon: Stories is NOT 10 minutes from my house next year, you know I’ll be there if I can.