Yesterday, something I never expected happened.
A workshop I was asked to hold at Biz Dojo about Social Media and Personal Branding sold out within an hour of the newsletter being released. An hour. Ok, there were originally only twenty tickets designated so it's not like it is the Westpac Stadium but originally I was worried that no one would come because it is Waitangi Day. Biz Dojo decided to put another 10 tickets on so more people can come which is fantastic. You can register here. It's free.
"Ah yes," I see you reader thinking while you scratch your chin. "I see how it is Lucy - the old #humblebrag". No, no no! You're wrong. I hate the #humblebrag with a deep passion but really I must admit it was a super exciting moment I wanted to share, mainly because I get waay too excited about all of YOU. I'm hoping that there will be some blog readers in the audience and I can finally meet you in person! This is seriously thrilling for me because sometimes with blogging it can feel like yelling into an empty room. In fact, while it is less like that these days, for the first 6 months even though I could see people were reading it, I was like 'IS ANYONE OUT THERE?' just because I would post a question on Facebook or Instagram like 'Who do you think I should interview next?' and then silence would ensure: 'Cue tumbleweed......'. I'm sure you were all out there, some of you were just a bit shy.
I love meeting people who read The Residents. The first time someone I didn't know so well (ok, I did know her from law school but we weren't BFF's or anything) told me she liked The Residents and had read the whole blog (probably about 12 posts at that point so not a challenge but stay with me) I was over the moon. Someone actually was reading what I was writing and they liked it!! The joy! The rapture! It gave me sucha boost and a singing heart that I must have literally skipped all the way down Lambton Quay.
Nowadays I have some lovely regular commenters who I rate highly. I am very lucky with The Residents because I very rarely get negative comments or backlash so it is safe to assume you're all a lovely bunch and we'd get on rippingly. So if you are at the Biz Dojo event on 6 Feb, please come and say hi (I'll probably make you stand up in the audience but let's not give all my secrets away at once).
This workshop will be an hour and a half long which got me thinking about the last workshop I did back in November (ok, my first ever workshop but roll with it - be cool ok?). This workshop was with The Fantail Network, a womens networking organisation all about making kick-ass #girlbosses.
It was an incredible first opportunity and was held at the ASB Cube in Auckland. Why Auckland? The not-for-profit who were hosting the day, The Fantail Network, are Auckland based. While I had missed the opportunity to be at their Wellington chapter event, I wasn't going to miss the invitation to be part of the workshopping aspect of the day, where the members got to pick from a range of different supposed "Lifehacks", one of which I was asked to host on blogging. This was a huge honour as the other speakers were insane, such as the Founder of 'Eat My Lunch' (pictured above).
By contrast, at the Fantail Network Symposium, I only had 15 minutes to tell them everything worth knowing that I'd picked up about blogging. I covered what platform to use, how to optimise Facebook and Instagram (I try and generally stay away from anything complex with Twitter), the key behaviours you need to blog successfully and how to visualise your blogosphere.
How I Interview People
One thing I didn't cover in the workshop (and probably won't cover in the Social Media and Personal Branding course because it is a bit out of scope) is how I actually interview people for my blog. I realised some people out there may wonder how to find people to interview, whether they need questions, or how to take photos. Here is my behind the scenes. Granted - these photos are from the Fantail Network Symposium and full credit goes to their awesome photographer. Last year I interviewed over 64 people, publishing one story a week (to read them all, go here). So I think I have a bit of experience now and am qualified to share what I do.
1. Think of someone you already admire...
One of the most common questions I've been asked about The Residents is "Where do you find these people?". I am always a bit baffled when people ask this because I am like "I already know so many awesome people, I just hit them up on Facebook Messenger. And if I don't I get their email." If you look with your eyes properly open, you will see so many people in your life on the inner or outer rims who are incredible. Of course, you can search people's email on google and drop them a line within 15 minutes. But usually, whenever I am trying to think about who to interview on The Residents, I don't try and think of the most famous or accomplished person I can. I mentally flick through the index cards of people I already know and have a pre-existing relationship with (or connection to) and ask myself "Who is someone I would want to have dinner with and ask endless questions about their recent project/life?"
Often, I admire people who are awesome quiet achievers, like Nevada and Nick Leckie from Okewa Rainwear, Marco Sonzogni from Victoria University or Dave Moskovitz, Angel Investor. Getting out there and blogging has also allowed me to meet really cool new people and then ask to interview them, like Sara Quilter from Tailor (I am standing with her above at the Fantail Network Symposium), Craigy Lee from Union Tattoo or Liam Malone (Olympic Gold Medalist now - but just really ambitious crazy dude when I interviewed him before the Rio Games in May).
2. ...but don't over think it!
I try and not pretend to be a journalist. I am not. Instead, I try and have a chat with the person. I record everything on my trusty iPhone 6 s so I can listen to it back again and transcribe it later (the bane of my life), but the main thing is I want people to be happy and have a good experience. I don't ask them about their relationships unless they openly talk about them, I tend to ask unimaginative questions like "And then what happened next" because I think that the best stuff comes out of the FLOW of the conversation. Try to force it, and it will feel rigid. If you like questions, that is fine! It's just not my personal style because I am lazy and often on the go, so I try and keep it very high level. If I don't know it, neither will my audience, so they might as well say it. If you are stuck on questions you might miss a crazy line of inquiry like "You tried to create a swimming pool of beer??"
3. Take the photos yourself
I have a pet peeve of people who are lazy and rip photos from the internet or use stock images. I only ever do this as an absolute last resort, such as if I were in the middle of the amazon and needed to get up a blog post or all of the photos came out crap (it has happened on one occasion - they all came out crap, not the amazon). I think your photos are a key part of your storytelling. Why would you use someone else's pre-existing work (unless you have a Buzzfeed vibe going on)?
I use a Canon 700D camera but for the first 6 months of blogging I just used my phone Camera. As Chase Jarvis said, the best camera is the one you have on you right now (he wrote a book about it actually). Focus on getting the light right (avoid mid-day sun if possible, or try and get creative). Natural light is always a winner. Don't rely on post production too much and make sure you take lots and lots.
4. Transcribe and Edit with precision
Once I have collected my material, I go home and write the story up raw based on the transcription. Then I try and wait a few hours or a day before coming back and editing it through. This gives the piece time to 'breathe'. Make sure you leave enough time to do this because you want to create an almost finished polished product. Think about using subheadings liberally. I would also suggest trying to stay under 1500 words, a rule I frequently break (see George Bowler's interview). Remember to proofread carefully (something I get caught out on) and use apps where appropriate (I use Grammarly's free app). People will think you be a dumbass otherwise. Just sayin'.
5. Let Them Review
I think that interviewing someone is a collaborative effort. You want them on your team. So give them a chance to review it and make suggested changes before publishing. Yes, it is extra work but you will keep the person sweet and also they may even pick up on some things you accidentally got wrong. I think it shows respect and marks you out from some typical journos. Give the person at least 3 hours to review it in, or else you're being a bit demanding.
6. Share your ass off
Make sure you not only share on your own Facebook page, but tag the person, message them and ask them to share on their own page, their businesses page, and any other platform. Also ask any additional brands or people you mention (as long as it isn't trivial) to join the share-train. "What if I feel embaressed, Lucy?" I hear you cry. To that, I have to say "Fiddlesticks!" You have to BACK YOURSELF OR NO ONE ELSE WILL!! Without sharing, you may not have gone to all that effort. Even if no one else comments or likes.
7. Do it all again
Nothing makes you get better than practice, practice, practice. Once you have put something out there into the world, it is dead to you. Start from scratch and ask yourself what you can do next. Yes, do a little happy dance and call your mum. But you are only as valuable as your last blog post. Make sure you interview people often. You get faster at writing and faster and knowing what people enjoy.
But most importantly, have fun!