The price of evangelism

During my trip to the UK last week, I had the pleasure of meeting up with some friends for dinner on one evening and, on another, a dinner with fellow speakers for a conference at which I’ll be speaking next month.

Two excellent and enjoyable business/social events yet with some great contrasts in mindsets and attitudes to the subject of blogging. Both also taught me some essential lessons when it comes to the subject of evangelizing a topic or theme, whether that topic or theme is blogging, knitting or anything else.

On Wednesday, four bloggers and one non-blogger met for dinner at the delightful Bel and The Dragon country pub in Windsor. Great food and drink, excellent company and lively discussion.

The non-blogger is a good friend of mine, someone I’ve known and worked with for some years. I’m not going to mention his name in this post as it’s not germane to the point I’m making here. Our discussion overall was about blogging, social networks and other related topics. The four bloggers were in tune, as you’d expect. The non-blogger wasn’t – and our discussion soon became quite heated and, for a few moments, a bit unpleasant.

My non-blogger friend displayed every attribute of someone with a wholly closed mind, someone who just isn’t willing to view the subject matter we discussed as worth considering in the context of challenging his current beliefs. He pooh-poohed nearly every point everyone else made about new media channels such as blogs and stuck to his current beliefs in a way that did not brook any alternative point of view.

Suddenly it occurred to me that his rigid resistance to considering new ideas matched my own passionate evangelism for pushing him to consider those new ideas. In effect, I was ganging up on him! Could it be that my evangelistic approach to discussing our topic was really not that different to the closed mindset my friend so clearly demonstrated?

Our different views, and singular approaches to how we articulated those views, produced a spectacular collision. We were talking at each other, not having a conversation. Thankfully, one of our blogging friends successfully defused the negative energy that had built up and which at one point looked as though would result in my friendship with my non-blogger friend ending.

One great conclusion from all of this is that my non-blogger friend agreed to start a blog (I recommended he do that on TypePad) to see for himself whether blogging could be something that he’s willing to consider has validity in a business sense in the context of his current beliefs. Once he’s made a start, I’ll be looking forward to some actual conversations.

Then on Thursday evening, I joined about 30 senior communication professionals at a dinner at The Ivy restaurant in central London. All of us are speakers and presenters at the Communication Directors Forum taking place early next month.

During the evening, I chatted with a few of the participants about blogging (that’s one of the themes of my session at the conference). With one of those participants, I had a lively discussion about blogging.

He had seen the Business Week cover story on blogging, so we had a good starting point for a conversation. My conversation partner had read it yet still didn’t really see what it was all about from a business perspective. So we talked about business blogging where I used the widely-different examples of the GM FastLane Blog and the Tinbasher Blog as ways of illustrating what a company can gain from a blog.

There are some clear differences between this conversation and what happened on Wednesday. Different settings, people who hadn’t met each other before, for example. And the biggest difference – on the one hand, an open mindset; on the other hand, tempered evangelism.

Finally, I had a great treat – one participant introduced himself to me by saying, “Hi, Neville, I read your blog!” Now that made my evening! As that introduction took place in the queue for the men’s room, I’m looking forward to continuing the conversation in the far more salubrious surroundings of the P&O Oriana next month πŸ˜‰

Three lessons about evangelism:

  1. Always consider another’s point of view – and listen to that point of view no matter how anxious you are to get across your own point of view
  2. Be passionate but consider how you ‘deploy’ that passion – others may view your evangelism as rigid and self-righteous proselytizing
  3. Know that evangelism will fail in the face of a closed mindset

3 thoughts on “The price of evangelism

  1. Evangelism and blogging

    Neville Hobson was another participant at the four bloggers and a non-blogger dinner the other evening. He has some insightful remarks to make about evangelism and audiences….Suddenly it occurred to me that his rigid resistance to considering new ide…

  2. My experience is that most of the time non-bloggers don’t understand why you would like to spent time “sharing ideas” with other people without having any direct financial feedback from that. It seems silly for them. When I than explain them the richness of the medium and what self-expression means also at a business level, they often say that they understand, but that “I don’t like to write”…
    My answer is than that they should consider a videoblog… but than they totally freak out.
    I think ones you ‘understand’ the value of citizen journalism, the thing is that you as a person are adopting new technologies too quickly, and actually are too open to change…the world around you doesn’t change that quickly.
    We have to be patient…
    Thanks for your good insights every time, Nevill. I also love the podcast you have with Shell Holtz.

  3. Christophe, thanks for your comments.
    A videoblog and freaking out – I do like that! A discussion point for next time perhaps πŸ˜‰
    There’s a great additional view on evangelism I read today on The Red Couch, in the interview Shel Israel posted yesterday with Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba of the Church of The Customer:
    “One more piece of advice to the evangelists: Don’t bother with the atheists. Put your efforts into those who you can hope to convert.”

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