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What A Bad Museum Exhibit Can Teach You About Blogging

This post has been submitted by Glen Stansberry.

It’s funny what we can learn in our everyday lives that can help us improve our blogging.

I recently went to Kansas City to see the historic Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit, and came away with a feeling that the presentation wasn’t quite put together as well as it could have been. Although I’m grateful to see such an amazing piece of history, I think I could have gotten much more out of the experience had some things been organized a little better.

But my loss is your gain. There are still some things that we can glean from a mediocre museum exhibit that can help your blogging.

Organization is Key

Regardless of what you’re presenting, if you don’t organize it well, the entire presentation will suffer. Case in point: I was looking at one of the most significant archaeological discoveries of the 20th century! Organization is critical.

Information Overload

For each piece, there was the standard sign above it outlining its significance. But in addition to having to read lots of these signs, visitors were also given a phone-like device that allowed you to listen to many of the items in the collection. Sometimes the information from the signs and the audio overlapped. Needless to say, it was a lot of information to swallow.


Key #1: Don’t overload your audience with too much information.

Use the least amount of words to convey your message, and end the post. Keep it short and keep it sweet. I know it’s sad, but the attention span of the average blog reader is short. I mean really short. Like Danny DeVito short. So write accordingly.

One of the ways bloggers can help their audience is to give them guideposts. They could include:

  • smaller paragraphs
  • bullet points and numbered lists
  • sub-heading
  • LESS WORDS

By adding these handy little nuggets to your posts, you’ll help organize the text that draws the readers eyes to the most important parts of the post.

Another beef I had with the exhibit is how the presentation was broken down. Instead of telling the significance of the scrolls first, they waited until you were almost done viewing the exhibit before tying in why the scrolls had any historical value.

Key #2: ALWAYS explain your subject matter at the beginning of the post.

In the words of my history professor, “Never underestimate how little your audience knows”. Truer words were never spoken.

Just because you know, doesn’t mean your audience knows. Make sure you effectively explain the background of whatever it is you’re writing about before getting into the meat of the post. Everybody benefits from this: newbies and experts alike.

Many people already familiar with the subject matter don’t mind seeing stuff they already know as a refresher. And if they don’t, it’s not hard to skip ahead because your post is formatted with helpful guideposts, right? ;)

You don’t ever want to make your reader feel like he’s riding the blogger short bus to school, just because he doesn’t know what you’re talking about. Nothing scares away a potential reader like not having a clue as to what he/she’s reading.

Conclusions
There’s nothing like a real-world example to give us a little reminder on how to improve our writing. Don’t write like a bad museum exhibit that throws too much information at the wrong times to the audience. If you can break things down into smaller, digestible pieces, your writing will appeal to those fast-scanning blog readers, causing them to take a second look.

And sometimes that’s all you need to get noticed.

This is the third part in the series Cutting Above the Rest, a series focusing on how to use creativity, productivity and organization to improve your blogging skills. Read part 1 and 2 at How to think outside of the box and develop attention grabbing content and at how to blog with voice and increase community and readership. Check out Glen Stansberry’s blog LifeDev (feed) for more tips to improve your creativity.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Pua says:

    loved this post. i guess since i am at the beginning of my blogger career (hope there will be one!), the crucial hints still came at the right time for me. i liked best:

    “Don’t write like a bad museum exhibit that throws too much information at the wrong times to the audience. If you can break things down into smaller, digestible pieces, your writing will appeal to those fast-scanning blog readers, causing them to take a second look.”

    will apply this wise problogger advice to my next posts. thanks. aloha, pua

  2. Great post darren….like the part about danny devito

  3. shelby says:

    That’s why I pretty much stay away from museums period. In middle school we went to Washington dc for a field and I don’t remember a thing. Coolest thing was getting to sit by the pretty girl in the Imax Theater.

  4. Good reminder, Glen. I should perhaps think about writing more and shorter instead of less and longer posts. Or at least mix it up a bit.

  5. Jen says:

    Wonderful analogy, Glen, and you’ve made some very useful points here – presented in easy-to-digest bits! I found this extra-useful because part of my “real world” work as a freelance writer involves creating the text that goes along with museum displays! (Hey, someone has to do it…)

  6. Harry L says:

    Good Point. And let’s not forget that the average Blog reader will have a much shorter attention span than the typical person walking through a museum. It’s going to be much easier to lose someone that can just click away on a moment’s notice.

  7. Bes Zain says:

    Good points. Explaining the subject matter in a nice way also lures in visitors who do not like going to that museum.

    For example, if I wanted to go to a museum related to fossil and tar pits and animals stuck in such things over time [La Brea Tar pits in Los Angeles, for example] and was instead taken or somehow forced to go to a museum that showed how the “cats beauty contest” evolved in the last 20 years, I would really need some good introduction and luring information when I enter such a museum to keep me around or interested. Sorry, I had to come up with something related to cats and could not come up with something better than a cats beauty contest.

  8. Psycho Dude says:

    “Key #1: Don’t overload your audience with too much information.”
    Followingly stated that less words is better to keep in mind people with attention spans like Danny Devito, yet this article on itself would be much too long for him.

    Anyways, nice piece of work, and definitely true if you would be aiming at an audience as broad as possible. But I must say that if you would be focusing on a certain subject which by itself regards a certain background knowledge I personally would find it more than annoying to see an introduction to the post every time. Let’s face it, if money isn’t the number 1 priority out of your blog you also wouldn’t be that interested in Danny Devito reading your articles on the revolutionary breakthroughs in gene therapy, just to give an example.

    For your average day blog though writing in a fashion which attracts the broadest possible audience definitely is key.

  9. Chris says:

    I’ve tried a few different blogs and post regularly on different web forums. One thing I do when I have a basic idea for post is I’ll start typing. Sometimes things run on for quite a while, then I’ll step away from it for a while. Maybe type it first before I go to bed, then come back to it in the morning. That way I’ve got all my ideas down on ‘paper’, but I can come back to it with a fresh mindset and cut out all the extra junk.

  10. Lorelle says:

    Very well done. And your museum example cracks me up. We attended the “home” exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem several times and I was always swept away by the simplicity of the exhibition. When we saw it in the US a few years later, we giggled at the glitz of the presentation in Mobile, Alabama. Friends who saw it in Seattle were also overwhelmed with all there was to see and learn.

    This also applies to blogs as different cultures feel a need to display things like this different ways, as do different types of bloggers. In Israel, there was no money for glitz and glamor. It just was what it was and you took it as that. Made all the more special because of the simplicity. In the states, if it doesn’t whirl, click, buzz, and light up, no one cares.

    Are our blogs reflective of our culture in their design, too? Makes you wonder.

    Oh, my favorite “review” of the two different exhibits came from my husband who is fluent in Hebrew. He said they misspelled a bunch of the signs in the US exhibit. And used the wrong words. We laughed that it took an American from Oklahoma to figure that out when all the experts putting this together missed the blatant typos on huge signs and banners littering the exhibit.

    Sometimes, too much of a good thing makes you miss the little details that can tarnish the glitz.

  11. Teresa says:

    LOL…I like this. Very informative and a great analogy for putting together information for a blog. Even if you don’t have much to say..sometimes it IS how you say it that matters.

  12. Glen says:

    Lorelle,

    How true. Glitz is so often correlated with the term “professional”. But really the shmancy presentation is often used to try and cover up some of the most glaring mistakes.

    It also says a lot about the perceptions of the people making the presentation, and that they didn’t care enough to check the validity of their translations. Does this mean that they think Americans weren’t smart enough to catch them?

    Hopefully our blogging isn’t done shoddily just because we think our audiences won’t pick up on poor writing…

  13. infonote says:

    Darren, Can you consider reviewing 1 blog/site a week outlining how he/she can improve the blog.

    It is something everyone learns. With the feedback from your readers you will learn also. You can just make it a weekly column.

Trackbacks

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