Monday, February 18, 2013

How To Present Like A Writer

Radio personalities too often approach their daypart like it's a transfer of information as Mike Elgan writes on killer presentations in Computerworld : "I have all this information on what (the station is doing) I want you to know, and when I'm done presenting you will now have the information."

This is the worst kind of delusion, because everyone knows it isn't true. People usually retain little more than a general impression.

So if you want to make your bits entertaining and unforgettable, you should learn from people who are good at enjoyable and memorable communication: Writers.

How to present like a writer

A typical backsell breaks down communication into subjects like these:
  • Our branding.
  • Our music position.
  • Title and artist of the song just played.
  • Push card.
  • Pre-tease what's coming up.
These might be the right categories to discuss if the people in the audience were passionately curious about you and your radio station and what it's selling.

But they're not.

In fact, the reason you're actually THERE is not to satisfy curiosity, but to inspire curiosity. A forced march through your advertisers' "details" will inspire nothing but despair (does anyone want more details in their life than they already have? radio should BAN the word "details").

A good writer is more likely to break down the parts of communication into the categories that reflect how the human brain works, like these:
  • Mental images.
  • Stories.
  • Emotions.
  • Facts/info.
Over the next few days as I summarize Elgan's powerful article with radio in mind, let's look at each of these categories and how you can organize your presentation around them.

Lets begin with mental images.

Professional communicators, and especially writers, pay close attention to mental images. When nonfiction writers want readers to imagine something memorable, they use a good visual metaphor.

When politicians want voters to forget something horrible, they avoid mental images and instead use euphemism and jargon -- which is language that has been stripped of visual imagery.

That's how any skillful communicator manipulates an audience: Use visual imagery to create memories; use euphemism and jargon to erase them.

One of the reasons most radio bits are so weak in when measued by listener engagement is that jocks use euphemism and jargon like "nice to have you along on your Tuesday," "the time right now, " "the temperature outside," "before that," "we started off with," "the latest from," etc because they think it sounds "professional."

It doesn't. It's amateur-hour communication.

You are emulating the verbiage of a personality you probably admired a decade or two ago when you first wanted to be in radio.  You aren't even talking like "you," you're imitating everyone else.

A good metaphor is effective because it imparts a strong mental image that faithfully communicates an idea and makes it memorable.

You can tell people that a particular cow is yours, but nobody will forget the fact that you own the cow if you sink a smoking, orange-hot branding iron into the animal's flesh.

It would be easy to forget the abstract idea of metaphors being memorable. But you won't forget the mental picture you now have of that cow being branded.

Writers use metaphors. But as a radio talent, you never have to use them. Until now.

When you want to create a mental picture in the minds of your audience, show them the picture!
Elgan writes:  "The best business presentation I ever saw used slides that didn't have a single word on them. Every slide was a photograph. When the speaker talked about the growth of his company in the '90s, he showed a striking picture of a race car as he talked. When he moved to the post-recession decline, he showed a picture of a car on fire.  Ten years later, I still remember his presentation."
Seth Godin did that at CRS 2009.  One of his messages was for radio to make it easy for listeners to create a "tribe" and recruit their own "followers" for you.  I remember that four years later because he painted pictures in my mind with his presentational approach, which just seemed like conversation which the Power Point slides amplified, but he almost totally ignored, unlike most Power Point presenters.

I have never done a presentation for my client stations or other speaking engagements 'the old way' since!

Yet, most of the radio people in the room seem to still talk habitually in the face of his demonstration of how to be memorable and informative.

Word pictures are memorable. Walls of data are forgettable. So if you want to be unforgettable, use more metaphors and similes in your content breaks and far fewer words and numbers.

Deliberately "show" your listener the mental images you want them to remember and associate with your raps.

Very important: Use "real" pictures, not fake ones.

Never use stock verbiage, which stinks of artificiality. If you want to represent happy people using your radio station at work, for example, use names, voices, texts, social media comments of actual people in real workplaces.

Help your listener picture real products, real employees, real users, real problems, real tasks.

Or if you're illustrating a concept for an advertiser, make sure you "show" scenes of real life, rather than staged or faked scenes.

It's more important for your pictures to be real than to be "professional" sounding.

And, you know what?  Magically, each listener will have a different, personal, equally genuine experience customized just to them on the movie screen of their mind.

1 comment:

A Tenor's Tale said...

We need look no further than within part of our own industry for evidence; songwriters. Country songwriters in particular. They create vivid, memorable and impactful images with their words in three minutes and change.