Several years ago, I had a friend that was a sociology professor at Houston Community College. Occasionally, he’d ask me to cover for him when he needed to miss a class. Usually he’d have me take attendance and show a video but one day I asked him if I could try something different.
At the time, I was on the board of an organization that wanted to promote the Houston music scene. I thought it would be fun to spend the hour talking about music and polling the class on their favorite local bands, venues and types of music they liked. I assumed, being college kids, they’d be all over this but I was shocked at their reaction.
They were clearly bored. You would have thought I was quizzing them on quantum physics. With one or two exceptions, they seemed to not give a damn about music and resented having to answer questions about it. It was probably the worst response I’ve ever gotten from an audience. I concluded that this generation of kids just didn’t care about music as much as my generation did.
Would you agree?
Later, I relayed the story to my friend, Bob Wall, a guidance counselor at another college. I shared my theory about this generation versus my classmates when I was that age and he blew me right out of the water.
Bob said, “You’re wrong. Overall, the kids you went to school with didn’t care any more about music than these kids.” I thought he’d flipped his lid. “How do you figure that?, ” I asked.
“How many kids were in the class, about 30?,” Bob asked. When I nodded, he asked, Were any the kids interested in what you had to say?”
I said, “Yeah, maybe one or two.”
“Then that’s just about right. When you were in high school, most of the kids listened to music and many went to concerts but there was a small percentage of kids that was really into music. The kind with big record collections, that knew all the details about the bands and that were really passionate about music. And that’s who you surrounded yourself with. After graduation, you worked in music stores and in clubs where you hung out with nothing but hardcore music types. When you weren’t working, you spent all your time in rock clubs.”
“It may have seemed like a lot of people were in the local scene but what were the actual numbers? A few hundred? A few thousand? Even if it were ten thousand, which I doubt, that’s a tiny fraction of the population in that age group. So is it really that much of a surprise that you only found one or two kids that cared a lot about music in that class?”
I realized he was right. And what a paradigm shift that was. It really got me thinking.
While it’s great to be surrounded by people that share our beliefs and passions, it can also limit our worldview. It can effect the way we interact with our prospects and customers, too.
How Could I Have Handled This in a Better Way?
What could I have done differently that day in class?
First, I could have asked my professor friend to tell me a little more about his students. I could have explained more about what I planned to do and gotten his opinion on the class’s interest in music. I also could have chatted with some students before class began to get a feel for their interests. And finally, I could have made adjustments to my talk rather than continued to push my own topic. I could have been more curious and asked those uninterested in music, what they were passionate about.
Have you ever had a similar experience?
Think about this. When you network, do you tend to hang out with the same small circle of people or do you sometimes explore a completely different tribe?
When seeking information, do you tend to stick to the same resources?
Are you really aware of your audience’s wants and needs are or are you just assuming they all dance to the same tune?
Let me know your answers. Please leave a comment below.