Today is October 6th. National Poetry Day 2011.
Last Thursday wasn’t National Poetry Day. And neither was last Friday – but on both of those days, I was lucky enough to attend performances by some of Manchester’s best and brightest poets. People who know as much about choosing words and formulating sentences as any copywriter I’ve ever met.
So it’s no surprise that I learnt a few things. Not about poetry.
So read on, and find out just what it is that you need to learn from poets.
What Bloggers and Copywriters Can Learn from Poets
Bloggers and copywriters may use different techniques than poets, and write for different reasons – but the one thing that we all have in common is that we write for an audience.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are a number of hugely important lessons that you can learn from the brave souls up and down the country who spend their evenings entertaining people with creative prose.
You Need to Seek Out a Critical Audience
Think about the people who commented on your last blog post.
Were they part of a a carefully selected network of your peers, with a history of supporting your arguments and agreeing with your conclusions?
Or were they critical judges, setting out to drop the soft soap to give an honest appraisal of your talents?
The chances are that they’ll be the former. And that’s fine, because it’s important to build up a network of cheerleaders to help you promote your posts and spread your message. But when you’re only listening to people who enjoy your work, you’re heading down a path to stagnation.
You need to seek out the critics.
Unfortunately, there aren’t any blog slams in the pubs of Britain – but there are blogging contests and competitions where you can test your skills and receive honest feedback that will help you to grow. Or, failing that, you can chance your arm by submitting a guest post to an industry leader. They’ll be sure to point out any weaknesses that you need to work on, in a way that your friends probably won’t.
Adaptation is Crucial to Success
As I mentioned above, I spent Friday evening at a poetry event. I knew what to expect. A guest poet in front of a crowd in a warm, well-lit venue – possibly with a bar. Good acoustics, a stage, and a good time all round.
So when we arrived at the venue to find that it had closed down, I wasn’t expecting to see a poet.
But I was wrong. Because the show must go on.
The night happened on a cobbled back street in Manchester, with evening drinkers wandering through, students partying in the flats above – and a guest poet reading his work backlit by a streetlight, while the crowd nursed warm tins of lager.
Adaptability by the poets performing that night turned an ordinary performance into an extraordinary event.
Can you say that you’d do the same? Or would you decide to reschedule the second things started to move away from your comfort zone?
If you want to succeed, adaptability is key.
Striking a Chord Gets You Into Heads
Chances are, you’re going to have a favourite poem. It could be a ditty from your childhood, something soppy from a lost love, or something you unearthed in a treasured book.
But it’s got to be your favourite poem for a reason. Because it struck a chord and spoke to you in a way you didn’t expect.
Your content needs to do the same.
Whether you’re framing your blogging advice in a way that resonates with your audience, or writing copy that outlines problems all of your customers can identify with, striking that chord will ensure that your readers remember you much longer than they otherwise would.
And if you’re pitching at the tall, it might be worth taking a few notes from the following poem, which really struck a chord with this 6’7″ blogger:
Note: I filmed this. How steady are my hands?
It’s All in The Delivery
Finally, what you’ll learn from watching performance poets is that delivery is equally as important as content when it comes to getting your points across.
The best content in the world can be let down by sub-par delivery, whether that comes in the form of a dull and uninspiring website, or a stuttering and halting verbal delivery, so even if you think you’re at the very peak of your powers, it’s worth taking the time to think about how you’re putting your message out there.
And if you’re not sure about the quality of your content, then it’s worth remembering that strong delivery can win you points on its own. You’ll get nowhere favouring style over substance in the long term, but a unique style can pull your arse out of the fire in a pinch.
If you’re worried about your blogging delivery, but want a few quick and easy tricks to keep in your locker, then you could do a lot worse than seeking out my Seven Secret Steps to Irresistible Blog Posts.
Attention Manchester-based readers! My friend Benny-Jo Zahl (as seen in the video above) will be performing on October 26th 2011 at the WOL Sale Open Mic. I’ll be there too, and you can buy me a drink.