And more importantly, why will they listen to you? I find myself mentoring writers who would like to get published or speak at conferences, and I notice that most have the same reticence: "I don't have anything important or new to say."
Yesterday I read my speaker's bio for the upcoming UA Europe 2009 conference and felt quite abashed. (The one in my preconference workshop description was even more 'abashing.') My initial reaction was "I've got to meet this guy." Like those who seek my advice on speaking and writing with authority and influence, my reaction was "I don't deserve those words." It reminded me of the first time I spoke at a WritersUA conference where I had one of the big rooms. I saw my title slide on a screen that was bigger than the flag backdrop in the movie Patton, and I wanted to tell the audience that what I had to say did not deserve a screen that big.
So I pondered all this on my drive to work this morning and asked myself how I had become a pundit. Actually, it's an important question because all technical communicators are in the business of speaking with authority and influence, and often we feel inadequate in the role. Like who am I to be writing about firewall rules in a help file meant for network security professionals?
The following curve came to me on I285 (it was rush hour and traffic was slow). The best part is that I got to see my love of bell curves and Sufism converge.
Click graph to enlarge
Pundits are not the leaders of the pack. In the adoption curve, I've always come into the party pretty late in the game [sound of mixed metaphors colliding], but that is where the pundit adds value. Up to that point, the innovators and early adopters have been tightly focused on details. In a way they are like the blind men in the Sufi tale, each feeling only a part of the elephant. Only someone joining in late can see the elephant as a whole. It is the role of the pundit to say "It's an elephant."
How do the innovators and early adopters react to this? "Duh, no lie, Einstein."
How do those coming behind the pundit react? "Wow, that is so cool, I get it."
The secret is to not compare yourself to the really smart people who have gone before you--that is way depressing, trust me. Instead, look at what you can offer to those coming behind. And incidentally, look at the area of that curve! What? 100 million people who can benefit from technology such and such, and a third are already doing it? That's 33 million folks in line ahead of you. Oh wait, that's 67 million behind you.
So recognize that as a technical communication professional, you're getting involved with products and technologies often at the sweet spot: Early enough to have a sizable audience that's not there yet, and late enough to have the vantage point to be able to see the elephant in the details.
Write about it, speak about it, let yourself get a little recognition for it. Just never quit blushing at the sales hype about you and wanting to "meet THAT guy."