Transmission isn’t reception

Making things simple is hard. Ironically, it is complex. The greatest advances come from making things simpler or easier. You can be a rock star at work, just by simplifying a process, adding some form and simplicity into a complex environment… but it isn’t always easy.

The same is true of human communication. Make it easier to follow, to remember, and the more powerful it will be. That doesn’t mean everything should be a sound bite, or a tweet- the art of effective communication comes from making the complex more accessible and by recognising the skills, tips and tricks to make that happen.

Tell me the time, don’t explain how a watch is made.

The skills can be quite varied, but the most straight forward is knowing what to include and what to leave out. The edit process can make all the difference when it comes to focus and simplicity. Whilst I used to have many things on my office wall, not all worthy of sharing, once I had this quote, “Tell me the time, don’t explain how a watch is made”.

There are many students who have witnessed me deliver a session where I have picked on one person in the audience and thrown a screwed up ball of paper at them and asked them to catch it, which they did successfully. I then threw 3 balls of paper at them at the same time and asked them to catch them… unsuccessfully. They might have been able to catch one if any. All too often I hear audio only professionals (radio, podcast etc), throwing more than one subject or concept at me- at best I remember one if you are lucky, and probably the last one I heard (what is last, lasts). Those who work in audio alone are already working at a perceived disadvantage by communicating with sound alone so why make it harder?

Just as an aside, audio only is seldom a real disadvantage as whilst you might not have the visual stimulus and the listeners can consume your content whilst doing something else and they have those distractions and interruptions, they can also listen whilst they are doing something else, like driving and you can influence their creative imaginations and allow them to think of any scene just by using words and sounds, without having to build any sets or visit any actual locations!

I have known people respond when coached on the subject to say, “I had a lot of say and get through and so needed to do it”. To which I say, “If a tree falls in the woods and no-one is there to witness it, does it make any noise?“. At this point the meeting ends and a reputation of being weird begins. The point is that just because you have transmitted the information, it doesn’t mean it has been received, and if it isn’t received then your transmission was pointless and a wasted effort and you might as well have saved the effort and not said it, or just shut up. Normally a healthy debate ensues, which can be fun.

I have some audio of a favourite (not favourite) type of link which some people occasionally deliver. A MENU LINK. It’s a link, normally at the start of the show or thereabouts, and contains a list of everything which is going to be covered within that radio show and when it will happen. The audio I have as an example of this delicacy is actually only about 2 mins 50 seconds long, but feels a LOT longer- at least twice as long. When I have played it in sessions at times I have almost not wanted to do it as I can’t sit through it.

A few things to unpack from the menu link.

  • Very few people, apart form the people the presenter can physically see when delivering the link, and perhaps their close family if they are able to listen, tune in at the start of your show and listen intently on their every word.
  • Update on the above, those they can see are perhaps paid to be there, and the family do it because they love them.
  • “Throwing forward” is a nice idea and a useful tool, but in reality mentioning something which is happening in 2 or 3 hours time, along with everything else that might be happening in-between times is not going to make anyone hang about.

I once had a discussion with someone who really wanted to do a menu link, saying that “people needed to know what was coming up and when to hear it”. The example I had above came from a station with huge ratings and a big set of numbers so surely it worked! For the daypart in question I took the total hours and divided it by the reach, resulting in an average hours of just 1.4. The majority of the audience didn’t stick around and even the person making the argument couldn’t remember more than a couple of bits from the menu!

Make content choices.

Only throw one ball of paper at me at a time.. I’m happy to catch one in every link and you can even throw one at distance across a song or a break if you like, if its interesting enough I’ll try and catch it.

When it comes to your content, understand that transmission really isn’t the same as reception and just because you have said it, doesn’t mean it has been heard. You have some valuable content (hopefully) so when you deliver it you want the attention of the listener to be at home rather than throwing your content over the side gate and hoping they pick it up later. You would get a better reception if you came back with your content later and delivered it in person.


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Published by Dick Stone

Radio...its always been radio.

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