Hubby and I attended the Coldplay concert a few weeks back. There were two opening acts, a band and a soloist. Neither compared to Coldplay, but for different reasons.
The band: They had great vocals, interesting songs, and good musicality. But they lacked the showmanship and confidence of Coldplay. You could tell they had the essentials down, but just needed more practice in front of an audience to wow a crowd.
The soloist: I don’t have words to describe the soloist other than bizarre, monotoned, and awkward. This was not only my finding but the folks around me felt the same way. She didn’t know her audience. Famous in another part of the world, she had the confidence there, but not the relevancy here. A huge disconnect existed between her antics and the audience’s preferences.
Which brings me to our careers.
We need showmanship. And we need to understand our audience.
Showmanship: I don’t mean that we need to preen or parade around like awesome people. No, what I mean is we need to apprentice and put in our hours before we hit the limelight. We need to do what Malcolm Gladwell advocates in Outliers--to practice 10,000 hours at our craft before we seek to be noticed by others. So much of success is bred in those unseen hours of practice. Yet most folks want the fame without the sweat. It’s true in the writing world, so I imagine it’s true in other places too.
Audience: In order to create a product for others (even if that means speaking or a blog or a book), we must-must-must understand the heartbeat of our audience. We must study them, discern their needs, and find ways to bless them. To be “all us” without considering the implications for others is to court frustration. Ask yourself this simple question: Who do I most want to reach? And then ask, Why?
How has apprenticing helped your career? And when has discovering your audience been a blessing? Any cautionary tales to share?