podcast microphone
Credit: Image from Pixabay

"Whatever the future holds for this wonderful, exciting, changing medium of ours in the next 10 or 20 years, words will always matter."

So said David Lloyd, radio broadcaster and author of How To Make Great Radio, speaking at the Next Radio conference in London on 19 September.

"So, why is it that broadcasters in this country seem to open the fader and not give any thought to what they are about to say? They agonise more about the words of the tweets they are about to draft."

Lloyd explained that the way audio content creators use words is absolutely critical in order to engage audiences and ignite emotions within them.

This, he said, can be seen all around us in everyday life, from the novels that move us, to restaurant menus that ignite our appetite.

"When you read the news on the radio, you are delivering stories. They are sometimes horrific, but they are stories with a beginning, a middle and an end.

"You see the awful pictures from TV when there is a tragedy unfolding, and what do you do? Carry on plumping your cushions and eating your yogurt – but that's how telly is.

"However, when I drove home and listened to Eddie Mair on PM and he played a package from Aleppo with a correspondent giving a first-hand account of how things are there, I was moved to tears while sitting in a traffic jam. You can't pixelate brutality – it's the power of words."

Lloyd noted that Andrew Stanton, director and writer of Finding Nemo, said that every sentence of storytelling should equip the writer from the beginning to the end to reach their goal, which should strike a human truth.

When you read the news, you are delivering stories. They are sometimes horrific, but they are stories with a beginning, a middle and an endDavid Lloyd, radio broadcaster

So what specific words should audio content creators be using to grab people's attention and engage them to keep listening?

He explained that there's power in the words 'you' and 'I', with their ability to make podcasters and newsreaders seem they are speaking directly to the audience for a more personalised experience.

"You can also take the listener on a journey with the words that you use, by using the word 'let's' – 'let's do something together now'.

"But cut out the negative word 'don't' – I'll never get my head around the phrase 'don't forget to join me', what a strange way of speaking."

Radio reporters also have to think about how they deliver those words, said Lloyd, and he suggested using 'pause, pace, pattern, register' to remember this.

"Be natural when intoning your sentences, and remember that male and female listeners trust lower registers," he said.

"The pause is incredibly powerful if used correctly and sticks out so beautifully on radio. In fact, it was demonstrated in a recent Radio 4 programme that if you edit out the gaps in Churchill's speeches they aren't half as powerful."

By distinguishing the purpose of what you are saying, where you are starting and heading with your story, and ensuring you're choosing the right words to deliver it well, radio can be the most powerful way to tell stories, he said.

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