Sunday, July 22, 2012

5 Simple Ways To Lose Fans and Alienate People

A recent experience gave me new appreciation for the fans I may have and made me reconsider what we writers, artists, and other creatives owe our fans. I realize it is impossible to please all people at all times. One should not even try to. However, the person who blithely ignores his or her supporters is the person who soon won't have the bother of *having* any...

A fan's excitement knows no bounds.
Last week I attended a horse-training clinic given by a trainer who is well on his way to becoming an international sensation. I had great hopes of it being the high point of my summer.

My friend hosted the clinic after seeing the trainer at two different major equine venues. She talked him up big time. When I watched video footage of him and his horses doing tricks and liberty work, I was impressed with what he could do.  I was *so excited* to go to his clinic because I knew this guy could get his horses to do the one thing I'm stuck on with my horse's training, so I squeezed out money that had been earmarked for other things ("We're eating ramen for the next month, guys!") and signed up.

In order to attend, I rearranged my clients and called in favors from friends for everything from babysitting to horse hauling. Before I even signed up, I was very clear about what I wanted from the clinic. "If he's not going to cover that, or if he won't teach it, then I'll give my spot to someone else," were my exact words.

Weeks before the clinic, my friend assured me she had spoken with the trainer and he saw no problem with covering what I wanted to. Yay! On the first day, when the clinician asked what we expected from the experience, I specifically stated my goal. Not that it did any good.

Let's just say that I'd have gotten more bang for my buck by driving down the highway and flinging $20's out the window. Instead of getting the targeted training I had hoped for, what I got was a 2-day groundwork clinic that covered basic lungeing and handling: things my horse knew when he was two. Of the seven paying participants, three definitely needed what he taught. Their horses made real progress. I can't say the same for the rest of us.

My mother's mantra is "No education is ever wasted." My recent clinic experience put Mom's maxim to the test. Did I learn a few little things I can use to continue my horse's education? Yes and no. I learned different ways to do things, but nothing led me to believe the clinician's techniques were superior to the methods I follow. And at no time did he address my specific training questions or goals.

After the first day, it became clear that the clinic experience was not going to be what I had hoped for. Had I found someone who wanted my spot, I'd have gladly given it to them.
"You have foofed my tail! A fan's tail is never foofed!"
Photo by monosodium via

Before the clinic, I spent a day working outside in record-setting heat, helping the host get the facility ready. I also contacted local media, promoted the event online and in print, and participated in papering every horse-related business for 60 miles with flyers. I watched the trainer's videos and introduced them to horsey friends who had never heard of him. I was a fan.

In less than two short days, I went from fan to fed-up.

My clinic experience got me thinking about how easy it is to lose someone's goodwill. And goodwill, once lost, is a very difficult thing to regain. So, if at any time you feel you have too many followers, here are some suggestions (gleaned from the clinician's actions) for whittling that number down:

1.)  Remain Aloof. When teaching a class or a workshop, don't hang out during breaks and shoot the breeze with the people who have paid for the privilege of working with you and learning from you. If you must eat with participants in a common area, get through your meal as quickly as possible. Do not engage them in conversation. Show no interest in their puny and pathetic lives. Hang out only with those in your entourage.

2.) Butcher People's Names. If someone's name is unusual or difficult for you to pronounce, don't bother to get it right. Announce that the name is just too hard / odd / inconvenient for you to remember. Bonus points if you make up your own name for that person and just use that instead.

3.) Make Jokes At Your Fans' Expense. Ignore what we know about how the brain processes information. People who say sarcasm has no place in the classroom are wusses.  Whenever possible, especially if it's good for a cheap laugh from your non-paying customers, insult your students. Calling attention to their race, gender, or natural hair color are all excellent jumping off points.

4.) Show Off. Not only will it reinforce that your abilities are far beyond your fans', but it will have the added value of reminding them how little the stuff you are giving them has to do with the stuff you can do.
If this is how you make me feel, I won't be a fan for long.
Photo by runron via

5.) Take Their Money and Run. When your fans tell you what they expect from you, lead them on. Let them think you might deliver. If you're up front with them about what you will and will not do, they might ask for a refund.

I almost didn't post this entry because I realize how snarky it may sound. However, I want to record the experience and my disappointment if for no other reason than to remind myself (should I ever need it) that at no point is the fan someone to be dismissed, discounted, or trifled with.

I am not advocating pandering or selling one's soul for celebrity. I am also not suggesting that one should prostitute oneself to the whims of the masses. Far from it. But I do believe that when interacting with the public, the performer / teacher / artist / expert owes that public both courtesy and respect. I hope to remember this event for a long while and pray that I do not make the same mistakes when dealing with those who have paid me for my expertise.


Michele Shaw said...

Okay, I'll admit I don't have any fans, but this behavior is reprehensible no matter who you are! If I ever had fans, I'd be so grateful I can't imagine being such a snob. I do realize as people gain greater fame the demands on them are higher, but in this instance it sounds like common courtesy went out the window and for that there is no excuse! It doesn't sound snarky at all. Just honest and a sad commentary on some people's egos. Sorry you had such a bad experience:(

Ami Hendrickson said...

Ah, Michele, I fear you are too self-deprecating. You *do* have fans. I am one of them. :) I'm with you, though, on recognizing the need for gratitude toward one's supporters. Perhaps that's why I had the experience... Evidently God felt I had something I needed to learn?

Miss Midwesterly said...

Awful. May we all remember these lessons. As always, thank you for sharing.

Ami Hendrickson said...

Miss Midwesterly,
Thanks for commenting. I hope I remember these hard-earned lessons for a long, long while. *Something* good should come from the experience. :D