Can Your Spokespeople Paint Pictures With Words?

To learn how to communicate effectively on radio and explain complicated topics simply, listen to the first 90 seconds of this four minute item from BBC Radio 4’s fact-checking and statistics programme, More Or Less – (scroll forward to 11.25). The programme’s presenter, economist Tim Harford, is excellent at using simple, accessible language to explain complex concepts. His interviewees who are scientists or engineers, usually less so. But in this clip, coastal scientist, Sally Brown, shows us how it’s done helping us see the earth not as a perfect sphere but as a knobbly potato.

To communicate successfully on radio, you need to paint pictures with your words. Humans are a very visual species. Imagery seeps into our language and our processing of information. Think how when someone successfully explains something new to you, you often respond with an “I see”; a simple road sign transmits multiple pieces of information to you; even how your smart phone uses old-fashioned symbols to generate universal understanding (e.g. a 35mm camera represents digital photography, time is represented by an analogue clock, an envelope stands for e-mail). Radio has no pictures to carry your audience of visual humans with you, so you need to create pictures for them with your words and symbols. The two most powerful words you can use on radio are: “Imagine that …”.

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