by Tracy Johnson
You hear a lot about cutting through the clutter to actually get your audience to hear you. It’s a noisy world. To get through, you have to turn up the volume on your personality. That has as much to do with how you say things as what you say.
Several personalities I work with are focused on being more prolific on the air by dressing up existing breaks this way. Many times, their topics are fine. Their ideas are solid. The execution is good. But the overall effect is flat. You’ll get attention when you command it.
It’s not enough to have a great story to tell. You have to tell the story well! In fact, I’d rather have a great storyteller than a great story.
One way to become proficient is to learn to turn up the volume. That gives you a much better chance of being heard.
When preparing to perform, think through each segment from the listener’s perspective. How will they hear what you’re about to present? What are they doing at the time? What will be meaningful to them? And how will you compel that audience in a way that they can’t help but pay attention and lean in to what you’re saying? It’s usually subtle ways you say it.
Here are five ways to improve your chances of being heard:
General language is common and often ignored. A key storytelling technique is enhancing language with descriptive details that allow your listener to see themselves in your story. For instance, here’s an example of generic language:
Do you think it’s cheating on your partner to flirt with someone by making eye contact?
Okay, that’s factual, and a good topic. But it’s not vivid and doesn’t paint a word picture. It’s likely to go in one ear and out the other. It’s common.
Here’s a more colorful version, courtesy of Jonny, Holly & Nira on Virgin Radio/Vancouver:
Notice how this comes alive? It takes you there. They turn up the volume on their personality.
The more you craft your language to add movement, the more the audience will follow. Instead of just making a statement, give the audience a path to follow in the direction of your break.
Here’s one way of saying it:
I was getting on the highway, and a policeman pulled me over for driving without my lights on.
Here’s another way to express it in a way that takes the listener with you:
It’s dusk…not quite night, but the sun had gone down, and I’m merging into traffic at the onramp at Elm and Highway 492. On one side is a little old lady in a Corolla weaving between lanes. She had no idea anyone else was on the road. And on the other side is a stream of traffic flying by at about 80 miles an hour. In my rear-view mirror…flashing lights. And who does the cop pull over? That’s right. Me. Because the lights hadn’t turned on yet.
This description takes longer, but is efficient and more descriptive. “Weaving between lanes”, “flying by at 80 mph” and “flashing lights” show the audience the scene through your experience. It’s louder.
Many times, communication is weakened with long, run-on sentences that fail to move the storyline forward. Learn to speak in shorter sentences. It adds to understanding and is much easier to follow.
And, while you do want to use colorful, descriptive language, avoid using too many adjectives and adverbs. They slow communication more than enhance it. Describe with action (Show Me, Don’t Tell Me), but avoid “biggest, best, humongous, fastest, etc.”. That will challenge your creativity, but it will pay off as you become proficient in it.
Many personalities are more informative than entertaining. That can be fixed by changing how you approach the way you speak. When you inform, you’re talking like a journalist. You’re not a journalist. You’re an entertainer.
Engage the audience with creative language that comes alive. Turn up the volume on the way you speak, and the audience will hear your personality.
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