I Scrap­book. I admit it. It was only nat­ur­al, since I am a graph­ic design­er and the fam­i­ly archivist. But I don’t think of myself as a “scrap­book­er”, I like to think of myself as a ‘Mem­o­ry Preservationist’.

But it’s wasn’t always easy. Main­ly, because I am a guy.

Since being intro­duced to the scrap­book­ing com­mu­ni­ty in 2005, I rarely have had time to actu­al­ly sit down and scrap­book. All-day events, crop clubs and oth­er group set­tings, have been my only way of hav­ing time to work on albums.

My wife became a con­sul­tant for Cre­ative Mem­o­ries Octo­ber 2007. I con­vinced her to take the leap after a year of talk­ing her into it. We are a team. I do all the back office work while she is the pret­ty talk­er. Before she was a con­sul­tant and we met our won­der­ful team mem­bers, being in an all-day event was extreme­ly dif­fi­cult for me, the only man in a room full of women is unsettling.

You tend to feel out of place and, at times, it seems like all eyes are on you; try­ing to fig­ure you out and why your there. It wasn’t so bad when my wife was able to join me at the events, at least it put an answer to one par­tic­u­lar ‘unspo­ken’ ques­tion, that I am sure a few of the women may have had, but when a girl scout func­tion or oth­er vol­un­teer activ­i­ty called her away, it was some­times awk­ward being ‘alone’.

Our Con­sul­tant at the time, Pam—who is now our leader, was a god­send. She always made me feel com­fort­able and not out-of-place. Even when the occa­sion­al, “Ladies can I have your atten­tion” would slip out, it wasn’t so bad (Old habits die hard, I know). We would often joke about it. You couldn’t help but feel com­fort­able in Pam’s bub­bly presence.

Since I have been apart of Pam’s team and have met the oth­er team mem­bers, and their clients that attend the all day events, I have been accept­ed as “one-of-them”.

I can now attend an all-day event and not feel out of place. I can hold con­ver­sa­tions about the newest prod­ucts or share tips and tricks and not feel awk­ward about it. Nowa­days, I am usu­al­ly the go-to guy for tech ques­tions. “Should I get this hard dri­ve or that one?” “How do I back­up my files safe­ly” “My Mem­o­ry Man­ag­er Pro­gram isn’t work­ing right.” I get those ques­tions from con­sul­tants and clients alike.

Once they found out I am a graph­ic design­er, I start­ed get­ting dig­i­tal ques­tions as well regard­ing the tools of the trade (“Which cam­era is right for me?, “Is Mem­o­ry Man­ag­er com­pa­ra­ble to Pho­to­shop?, ‘What is the best way to fix expo­sure?”) and ques­tions regard­ing Cre­ative Mem­o­ries’ own soft­ware prod­ucts, like “How did you make that DVD cov­er in Sto­ry­Book Cre­ator Plus?”

It’s a nice feel­ing. Being able to do some­thing you enjoy and not feel awk­ward or self-con­scious about it. But there are still times that I wish that I wasn’t the only guy there. I real­ly feel like too many men are miss­ing out on a great oppor­tu­ni­ty to recon­nect with their fam­i­lies, through album mak­ing, and grow as a per­son in the process. Some, like me, can even have spe­cial time with their sig­nif­i­cant oth­er sit­ting right beside them work­ing on an album. In our busy sched­ule, some­times that is the only time my wife and I have to our­selves, it’s like a ‘play date’. She brings her projects; I bring mine and we work on them together.

There is noth­ing like work­ing on your child’s album and know­ing that some day, when you’re gone, they will hold that book and remem­ber the times spent with you. It may help them grieve your pass­ing when the time comes, or cheer them up when they need it and your miles apart. They may even use it as a par­ent­ing guide when they have their own chil­dren, to make sure their kids get to expe­ri­ence the same things they did grow­ing up.

It’s ther­a­py, plain and sim­ple, and it’s much cheap­er. As your chil­dren grow, and you yearn for those days when they were small­er, you get to redis­cov­er their first moments. From birth, their first steps, to their first sports win. You get to expe­ri­ence those moments all over again.

I think too many men are miss­ing out on all of that. So what can we do to change it? What can we do as con­sul­tants, spous­es and fel­low album-mak­ers to get more men involved on what we already know is such a reward­ing past-time, and for some, an even more reward­ing career?

I don’t know if I have the answers to that, but I have some thoughts on it. I know for me, this has become my goal. I want to sound the horns and ral­ly the troops; or as they said at Nation­al Con­ven­tion, “Shout it from the roof tops!” But it’s going to take some work and I know I can’t do it by myself.

So, what have I done to reach my goal? Well, over the past year, I have observed. I have watched men put to the scrap­book­ing test. I have seen men scoff at the thought, I have seen eyes glaze over and on one occa­sion, I have even seen a “macho” man, who I thought would nev­er even try, make a paper album and end up push­ing their spouse and kids to the side so they could have the final say on those embell­ish­ments! So there is hope.

But in my obser­va­tions, I noticed some­thing else. A few fac­tors that could inad­ver­tent­ly be push­ing men away and I think it is those fac­tors that we need to focus on if are going to get more men involved and share this unique oppor­tu­ni­ty with them. I want to share my thoughts with you.

First, I believe, is atmos­phere. When the thought of a room full of women, who prob­a­bly already know much more about this whole ‘scrap­book­ing thing’ than they do, is put to a man I think their mas­culin­i­ty starts to feel threat­ened. For most men, being sur­round­ed by women, may not sound like fun. Add to that a craft or past-time that they may know noth­ing or very lit­tle about. It can seem daunt­ing. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, there isn’t much we can do there until we get more men to attend these all day events.

So how do we do that? Well, I think lan­guage is the key to that answer and anoth­er fac­tor to con­sid­er. In away it also plays apart in atmosphere.

When we cre­ate an invi­ta­tion, a fly­er or an adver­tise­ment, we need to be care­ful how we word it. We can’t just appeal to one demo­graph­ic (any good mar­keter knows that). We want to appeal to a wide audi­ence to get the most turnout. So, using catch­phras­es like “Dig­i­tal-Divas”, “Digi-Chicks”, “Scrap Gals”, or oth­er female-only monikers tell the men this is a “female-only” gig. We have effec­tive­ly shut them out with­out even get­ting one foot in the door.

In print isn’t the only place either. We also need to be mind­ful of how we ver­bal­ly com­mu­ni­cate an event, or prod­uct or how we address things in a group set­ting. Too many times I have been at an all-day event, a con­ven­tion or region­al meet­ing that the lan­guage used has been very female-friend­ly. Things such as, “Ladies, can I have your atten­tion!?” “Oh ladies, isn’t this dar­ling!?” or “Look how absolute­ly adorable this is!?”

It’s hard for a guy to get into a prod­uct when it is being pitched as being ‘dar­ling’, ‘fab­u­lous’, ‘oh so cute’. To them, we’re putting up the “girl’s only” sign and we might as well be speak­ing in a secret code. Even though women are prob­a­bly the major­i­ty of our atten­dees, if we’re seri­ous about get­ting more men involved, we need to start work­ing on our lan­guage now. It needs to appear more invit­ing and not “club house” like.

Also, we shouldn’t call them out in a crowd either. Using terms like, “Ladies and man, can I have your atten­tion”, or “we are priv­i­leged to have a guy with us today!” just makes them even more self-con­scious and want to shrink low­er in their seat. We are slow­ly push­ing them away and mak­ing all eyes focus on them. Not too many men want that. They already prob­a­bly feel ‘weird’ and don’t need any­more help. [And yes, I have been in that sit­u­a­tion before.]

So, chang­ing our lan­guage can change our atmos­phere and make it feel more open. Instead of adver­tis­ing or hav­ing “Dig­i­tal Diva’s”, we should have “Dig­i­tal Peeps” or “Dig­i­tal Gurus”. We can make it fun and make it “Digi-Peeps” or “Digi-ru’s” (okay, maybe not that last one).

When describ­ing prod­uct, we need to stick with the facts. Describ­ing things in terms of use and not how cute it is. Things like, “This two-toned paper is great for that soft­ball tour­na­ment.” Or “These stick­ers add a nice touch for that new born baby page.”

Notice there is no “adorable”, “absolute­ly fab­u­lous” or “oh how cute is this” ter­mi­nol­o­gy? We can still use the occa­sion­al “gor­geous” or “love­ly”, but we need to make sure we know our audi­ence and when it is appropriate.

It’s also dif­fi­cult when lan­guage like, “Bring your Hus­bands” or “Call­ing all Men” is used in print. It makes it sound like they were an after thought. In some cas­es, we are almost telling the woman to drag her man along. That won’t work. The guy needs to feel invit­ed, not forced or feel­ing like you may have said, “oh he can come too”. Instead, we need to use terms like, “Call­ing all album mak­ers”, “Come one come all”; items that don’t specif­i­cal­ly rule out one sex over the other.

Those items alone, though, won’t do the trick. We need to get the men com­fort­able with the prod­uct. We need to get them into a male-friend­ly set­ting where they can be them­selves and exper­i­ment and ask their ques­tions and not feel dumb for ask­ing. They need to feel knowl­edge­able before they will prob­a­bly be at an all-day event with a room full of women, so they feel they can “hold their own”.

Host­ing events like a “Guy’s Crop Shop” or a “Tech­ni­cal Review” for guys only, will allow them to find out what this “stuff” is all about. They can ask ques­tions, get answers and feel com­fort­able doing so. Now, I know I just con­tra­dict­ed myself. I said before we shouldn’t do a “Call­ing all men”, and real­ly we’re not. As long as we phrase it the right way and make it appeal­ing to them, it can be a success.

For my first “Guy’s Crop Shop”*, I made an invi­ta­tion that had a grungy garage look to it. I chose fonts that were bold and chunky, I used tech­ni­cal illus­tra­tions of tools as back­ground graph­ics or items that would make them pause and read what I sent out. I told them in the invite that I would pro­vide the ‘beer and chips’ and they just need­ed to pro­vide the pho­tos.” I kept the lan­guage engag­ing, yet sim­ple and things that I felt would peak their inter­est. [*I titled it “Crop Shop” to be sim­i­lar to a “Chop Shop” a term a guy would prob­a­bly under­stand. A “chop Shop” is where they take a car and dis­man­tle it for its parts.]

Now, my results weren’t astound­ing, I will admit. It was part­ly due to me not fol­low­ing up on the invites…I had col­lege mid-terms and com­plete­ly for­got. But, even with my small turn out, just reach­ing a few males was enough. One par­tic­u­lar male, was my brother-in-law.

He showed up with no pho­tos, he just knew there was going to be food there. I hap­pened to have some of his foot­ball pho­tos in my Mem­o­ry Man­ag­er and I had a lap­top set­up with Sto­ry­Book Cre­ator Plus on it, ready to go. So I sat him down, loaded in his pho­tos and showed him how to start a 7x5 Foot­ball Pre-designed book. He went to town. With lit­tle help from me, he was col­or coor­di­nat­ing his text (some­thing I didn’t show him) to match his jer­sey uni­form. He was using embell­ish­ments and writ­ing catchy page titles. He didn’t get to fin­ish the book, but con­stant­ly reminds me he needs to get back over and fin­ish it, and when am I going to have anoth­er ‘Crop Shop’. He was one of the few that I had fig­ured would nev­er get into album mak­ing (it shows you too, to nev­er pre-judge!)

That is where I lead to my next point. Dig­i­tal is key! Let me tell you a lit­tle sto­ry. [I know, this post is already too long, but bear with me.]

When Amy and I went to our first Nation­al Con­ven­tion with Cre­ative Mem­o­ries, we had a bus that would dri­ve us from the hotel to the con­ven­tion cen­ter. On the very first day, we were sit­ting behind a hus­band and wife team, they both were con­sul­tants. A con­sul­tant sit­ting across from us was ask­ing the hus­band how he came to be a Cre­ative Mem­o­ries Con­sul­tant. Some­thing he said made a pro­found impact on me and made me real­ly think. He said, “I find it is much eas­i­er to talk to oth­er guys about dig­i­tal prod­ucts, than talk­ing about cut­ting up pieces of paper.” He was def­i­nite­ly on to some­thing. It made so much sense to me. Most guys are in to gad­gets and tech toys. So why wouldn’t they be into this cool, easy to use soft­ware that we have? What man could resist a drag-and-drop, easy-as-pie to use appli­ca­tion? No need­ing to learn about shape mak­ers, paper albums, pic­fo­lio, inspired sur­round­ings, pow­er palettes and oth­er tools, just how they can make some­thing remark­able in such a short time, with lit­tle effort.

And ya know what? It’s been work­ing. I found the great­est suc­cess in show­ing them Sto­ry­Book Cre­ator. When they see how easy it is to us, how quick­ly they can cre­ate some­thing, and how they don’t need to invest a lot of time and mon­ey to cre­ate an album, they like what they see. No more glazed-over look, no more scoff­ing. They start to ask ques­tions on how it works and what kind of sys­tem they need. I have even had a few turn to their spouse and ask, “How come you didn’t tell me about this?” (The wife usu­al­ly states that she did, but he just nod­ded and said, “uh-huh dear.”)

If they only stick with dig­i­tal, is that so bad? No, because all that mat­ters is that they are pre­serv­ing mem­o­ries that mean some­thing to them or some­one they care about. So if noth­ing else, if we can get them inter­est­ed in dig­i­tal, maybe will we start to see more men enter­ing through the doors of all-day events with their lap­top bags on their shoul­der, instead of just women with their totes.

Again, it’s all in the pre­sen­ta­tion (lan­guage and atmos­phere) and how we intro­duce the prod­uct to them. Just like we do with our female clients, it’s also about lis­ten­ing to them and under­stand­ing their need and find­ing what is right for them.

Final­ly, my last thought. We need more guy-ori­ent­ed prod­ucts for them. We need embell­ish­ments in the shape of nuts and bolts, ham­mers, screw­drivers and wrench­es. We need papers and pow­er palettes that are garage dri­ven and grungy. We need over­lays of tire tracks and bul­let holes. Art­work of cars, fish­ing, engines, boats, and snow­mo­biles. We need the tools to cre­ate our own sto­ry­books that shout, “This is me and this is who I am as a man.”

So, those are my thoughts, and I hope that they help me (and per­haps you) in the goal of get­ting more men involved. It’s time to share the secret.

[These are my opin­ions on the mat­ter. I haven’t done any sci­en­tif­ic research. I have just observe and these are my thoughts.] 

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