I just got back from two weeks in Hawaii, relaxing, playing on the beach, snorkeling, and generally enjoying one of the least “American” and most beautiful of these United States. By sheer luck, it turned out that the Merrie Monarch Festival was also taking place on the Big Island of Hawaii while we were there.
The Merrie Monarch festival is the premier hula dancing competition in the world and there were dancers and enthusiasts who flew in from around the globe to participate. Hawaiians are generally darn proud of their cultural heritage, of which hula is an important aspect, and there was a lot of talk about hula dancing because of the Festival. It was extraordinarily interesting for someone focused on business communications.
Here’s what you didn’t know about hula dancing: it’s all about storytelling and there are often two different stories being told simultaneously, one through the movement of the dancer or dancers, and another through the song being sung / chanted. It’s not just Hawaiian girls wiggling their hips, it’s actually a powerful method of reinforcing specific cultural values, of conveying part of the oral history of Hawaii and telling a good story.
As the Festival organizers put it, “Hula and its accompanying chants recorded Hawaiian genealogy, mythology, and prayers of the heart and mind. The hula was the means by which the culture, history, stories and almost every aspect of Hawaiian life was expressed and passed down through generations.”
Contrast that with what a savvy blogger — particularly a business blogger — is trying to accomplish when he or she fires up an editor and starts typing…
What makes a compelling blog entry is no different from what makes any sort of compelling presentation: it has to be built around a story.
Consequently, good storytelling skills are critical for good weblog authors: the best bloggers I know are also great conversationalists, because, well, blogging is having a conversation with your marketplace or peers, just in a somewhat time-delayed fashion.
If you and I could meet face to face, you’d find that I talk just like I write, and if you’ve ever heard me speak, you’ll immediately recognize my meter, grammatical structures, common phrases, and even humor.
But when you’re writing a blog entry, are you pulling your readers into your view, getting them caught up in your story, engaging them, or are you staying detached, uninvolved, just presenting facts or even encouraging them to skim for “nuggets”?
I believe you can learn a lot about effective communication by studying effective communicators (which makes sense, I hope!) Watch a real master like Tony Robbins or Tom Peters address a crowd. They’re not presenting facts, they aren’t offering an overview of recent market research, they aren’t regurgitating others ideas, they’re telling stories and sweeping you along in their abilities.
That’s where I see a strong parallel between bloggers and hula dancers. Really great, amazing hula dancing is relating an important story in a way that engages you, catches your emotions, and excites you. The chants or songs that go with the dance are exciting too, but it’s the physical activity that makes it so effective as a way of conveying information.
I’m not suggesting you put on a grass skirt before you start blogging, but when you are writing for your audience, are you trying to tell a story? Are you recognizing the power and import of your title, your lead paragraph, your word choices, how you structure and convey your key messages and ideas?
Are you dancing, or just talking about it?