"Your audience are begging to be entertained, oblige them."
There are subtleties that distinguish presenters from being ok, good or great.
One of those is the ability to talk to the listener rather than at the listener. A tell-tale sign that a presenter is talking at the audience is the way they end their links and features. Instead of inviting the listener to participate in the conversation, the listener is left with a simplified bland question, something like, “how you’re doing today” or “how was the weekend”. The opportunity to hook the audience is diminished every time a bland, open-ended question is offered instead of a conversation or story that will allow for engagement and participation (passive or active).
Storytelling is a teachable skill, there are methods and techniques. It isn’t always easy to convert the theory into a memorable spoken moment, but with practice, the ability to be a better storyteller is greatly improved. Young broadcasters have grown up amid the concept of storytelling, from Facebook, Instagram to story rolls in Tik Tok. So why do young presenters shower their shows and audiences with drivel, throw-away features and comments? In South Africa, public radio stations have made storytelling an art-form. Taking the form of radio dramas these stations have levered storytelling to the benefit of audience and advertisers alike.
You don’t need to go very far to see that people want to connect through impactful storytelling. Social platforms have developed an entire new way to tell stories, harnessing the use of mobile phones. Instagram has gone so far as to call the function “Insta-Stories”. Social platforms never ask the audience to interact with their apps, yet user’s check-in multiple times per day to view story updates. On demand streaming services have built billion-dollar industries out of stories that are accessible as, and when, the audience wants to indulge. Netflix don’t ask for the audience’s opinion on the story-line, but when Game of Thrones final season ends poorly, audiences take to social media to voice their opinions quicker than you can say #upset.
My opinion of the radio environment is that there is something amiss in the preparation process. In the work I do I often see young broadcasters read or consume a story and automatically focus on “how many”. How many people, how many views, how many shares and how many likes can this feature or piece of content get? The metric is wrong. Instead of asking how can I get tonnes of people to interact with this feature, talent should ask how can I make this as entertaining or engaging as possible. I believe we can learn from traditional authors, they write books, start to finish, not knowing if it will be a best seller (the how many metric). They pour all their creativity into the product and let the product do the rest.
How do you create content that is less styled like a classic feature but is more engaging with an underlying storytelling tone?
Avoid ending features with an open-ended question. Invite the listener to join in the conversation by sharing a similar story to the one you just told. But don’t beg them for interaction. Shift the focus to entertaining them as opposed to needing interaction.
Use your senses and feeling to relate to the audience. When prepping stories, incorporate descriptions of senses like touch, taste and smell. Don’t be scared to incorporate what emotion you want to convey in your story, I felt… is a very strong way of sharing with the audience.
Find a way to make you listener a part of the story. Use phrases like: I don’t know if this has ever happened to you, I know you might feel the same way. Use other means such as social media to convey elements that might not be possible through audio.
Always ask, how far can I take this story? Is this a quick story that you are starting your show with, or does this piece have the legs to grow into a bigger content loop? Find a way to take at least one feature per show as far as you can.
Radio is the original electronic story telling medium. Your audience are begging to be entertained, oblige them.