Thursday, June 26, 2014

Something To Say

Jay Trachman wrote this in August 1995 and I think it's still relevant today:

I heard the Classical version of the "paid-by-the-word" jock this week:  "That was the Piano Concerto #1 in the key of B-flat minor, Opus 23, by the composer Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky..." He's soul-mate to the jocks who say "Ten minutes before the hour of 12..." and "The temperature in Metroville is 79 degrees; the temperature in Burbtown is 77 degrees and the temperature outside, right now, is 78 degrees, looking for a high today of..." (We know it's degrees and if we didn't, we knew it after the first time... and we didn't think you meant the temperature inside the studio!)

Where did we get the idea that adding unnecessary words makes us sound better? Unless your audience is mainly people who speak English as a second language, the opposite is true. The fewer words we can use to ourselves, the more significant things we can say and be heard saying.

These people are first cousins to the jocks who read the sports scores -- all the scores -- because it's something to say... regardless of whether any of his/her listeners care about the teams involved... And to the ones who read both the local and regional weather bureau forecasts verbatim, followed by the extended forecast, God help us, all in the name of "something to say." Add to this group the ones who "pound home" the station slogans and positioners -- often adding one or two of their own -- more often than they're required -- because it's "something to say."

These are some of the more obvious over-talkers, but there's a more insidious form of the same sin: writing your own raps, and then failing to edit them for word efficiency. If a bit really takes sixty seconds for the setup, body and kicker, well, okay... But if it could be done in fifteen -- you've just wasted enough time for another whole bit! No wonder consultants like Jaye, Mike and Becky come in and shut these guys & gals up! No wonder you often get the impression there are only two kinds of jocks -- those who have nothing to say, and those who won't shut up!

Here's a clue: you are not paid to talk on the radio. You are paid to provide entertainment and information to a listener. The information, in order to be worthwhile, has to be something of likely interest to your listener. If there isn't any, why give it?  If it takes ten seconds to convey, how will you be perceived, when you take thirty seconds to say it?

"When am I supposed to do my entertaining?" jocks ask me. "The PD doesn't want us prattling on during stop sets; I've got to do the weather, the positioning statement and maybe a PSA and then it's time to get back into music!"

The secret is in compressing your words. Don't say the conditions three times in your forecast, if they're going to be consistent through the period: "Cloudy through Wednesday..." does it just fine, and is more likely to be heard and understood, than "Partly cloudy today; partial overcast tonight; then partly cloudy tomorrow..."

PSAs can be compressed routinely. Then, when you get one you really relate to, you can take the luxury of expressing some emotion about it, without appearing "too wordy."

This is such an easy problem to fix. All you have to do is believe in the concept of word-efficiency, and listen to your own air check once in awhile.

You can hear the wasted words. The next day, eliminate them. Oh, you may find a few hanging on because they've become habit... But over the course of a few weeks, listening to your air checks daily, you can wash them all out.

It's a principle newscasters have discovered, but a lot of us never seem to have caught onto the lesson: the shorter you make each bit, the more time you have for others. The more you compress each routine informational bit, the more real entertaining you'll have time for. And the less likely that you'll be perceived as "too wordy."

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