Today’s post was written by Brett Slater, Chief Social Media Officer at The Latimer Group.
In addition to my work with The Latimer Group, I also work mornings as a radio DJ in my home state of Maine. And since I started working with The Latimer Group, I’ve been hyper-aware of how I communicate, especially when I’m on the air. Below are a few tips I’ve learned behind the mic that also apply to many of the core themes The Latimer Group teaches in their client work.
1) Plan what you’ll talk about, but not necessarily what you’ll say. One of the things I love most about live radio is the spontaneity – entertaining “in the moment.” But being spontaneous doesn’t mean being unprepared. My partners and I always plan, but we never script. Being too scripted detracts from those spontaneous moments and suppresses personality, which are very often the best parts of the show.
Similarly, in your meetings and presentations, know your destination – where you want to take your audience – but not necessarily how you’ll get them there. Sticking too closely to the script can often sound, well, scripted… which makes you appear either unprepared or inauthentic.
2) Be brief. A radio DJ has only a few seconds between songs to make an impression, and give the listener the entertainment and information he or she needs… The call letters, your name, a quick check of the weather, and maybe some piece of news or a quick joke – all before the artist starts singing… Oh, and do it differently every time, so you don’t sound too repetitious and risk boring your audience.
The Latimer Group writes and speaks often about brevity, and the importance of getting to the point quickly. With mindshare in such high demand in today’s world, it’s more important than ever to get people the info they need quickly, clearly, and memorably, so they don’t – literally or figuratively – tune you out.
3) Keep the “show” moving forward; know what you’re doing next. One trait of a radio “newbie” is the inability to know how to end a bit, or get out of a break. A well-prepared DJ will know what’s coming up – a song, the news, a contest, etc. – so he/she doesn’t ramble or let a bit run too long. Keeping the show “tight” means being ready with the next element, so things don’t get boring for the listener.
Consider this when preparing a speech or presentation, or when leading a meeting. Know the key points you want to cover, and be ready to move forward to the next point as SOON as you know you’ve made the current one.
4) Be yourself. In radio, it’s what sets a “personality” apart from an “announcer.” Let your audience see/hear who you are. They’ll be more apt to engage and connect with you if you’re personable and relatable, and you’re delivering your message in a way that’s uniquely “you.” Connection and engagement mean that people will listen longer, which is true in radio and in business communication. That can’t happen as well if you’re not being your authentic self.
5) No matter how big your audience, talk to one person at a time. The strongest connections are made one-to-one, so try to avoid treating your audience like an actual group. Think of them as several individuals, and try to reach them one at a time. For example, our station’s target demographic is “Women age 25 to 54.” So I imagine I’m speaking to one woman getting her kids ready for school, then driving to work, and may be going out with friends this weekend, and so on. I boil down the audience to that one single individual in my mind, and that helps me determine tone of voice, show content, how long I talk, etc. It’s a little different in radio – I can’t see my audience. But in meetings or presentations, use eye contact, and speak to one person at a time. It will help you be yourself, and help you make a more salient connection overall. (Added bonus: It will also help with the nervousness that can come with speaking to a large group.)
Next time you listen to the radio (if you still do), try to notice which DJs do these things well, and see if you can notice a difference between who you like on-air, and who doesn’t sound as good. Then see if you can apply those tips to your own communication.