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How to use language to connect with your audience

 

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The best language to connect to your audience

A good presenter is engaging, entertaining, relatable and most of all someone who can build a strong connection with their listeners.

That’s easier said than done when you consider effective communication is made up of…

Good communication

So when you’re hosting a radio show or podcast you’re basically communicating with one hand and a bit (55%) tied behind your back.

Body language is one of those things we don’t think about a lot but it’s so important when we’re building rapport with people.  If you’re sitting across from someone who’s fidgeting and looking at the floor while saying the words “this is the best fun I’ve had all year” you’d probably think they were full of it. Conversely, if you’re on a first date you might know by the way someone holds themselves you want to see them again, even if they don’t utter a word.  But when all you’ve got is audio none of these social cues are available so it’s even more important to give serious thought to what you say and how you say it.

For some people this is surprising because when they hear a show that works the assumption is often the presenter or presenters are winging it.

You’d be amazed how many people come up to you when you work in radio and say “I reckon I’d be great on air because my mates think I’m hilarious” and that’s because good radio sounds like it’s easy.  The truth is if a show sounds like a natural conversation that flows freely it’s because the presenters are doing their job properly.

A professional presenter never stops thinking about what they’re saying even though this becomes much more subconscious the more experience you have. Proof of this can be found in the fact you’ve probably never heard your favourite podcast or radio host swear on air and I can guarantee that’s not because they’re puritans (my experience would suggest quite the opposite). It’s because when you’re on air you’re always thinking about what’s coming out of your mouth because you always need to be a couple of steps ahead of your listener.

I’ve written previously about “you” being the most important word you can use if you want to connect with your audience but here are some other things to consider when thinking about what’s coming out of your mouth…

Always use conversational language

When you’ve worked behind a mic for a long time you don’t feel any different when someone puts one in front of you but for a lot of people there’s a sense of gravitas that either turns them into Guy Smilie or makes them sound like they’re hosting a dinner party for The Queen.How to host a podcast

Obviously, there’s more weight in a moment when it’s being recorded or listened to by random ears but it’s important to maintain as much of the effortless conversational style you’d have with your mates (with less of the swearing, of course) when you’re hosting a show.

Essentially you need to find the balance between being familiar but not overly familiar, injecting your personality into the show without being lazy and being relaxed while still sounding like you’re in control. It’s a tough balance and something a lot of people find hard but the best podcast and radio hosts will tell you when they meet their listeners they always say “I feel like I know you” and that is the Holy Grail of presenting.  But it’s only possible if you talk to your listeners like you’re talking to an old friend.

Paint a picture in your listener’s mind

“Theatre of the mind” is a wanky radio term that means using the kind of words and descriptions that put your listeners exactly where you are.

Words to use in a podcastThe only way people can connect with something you’re talking about is if they can relate to it and the only way to do that is if they can see it in their mind.

To do this it’s important to choose words that describe a situation, place, experience so your listeners can be there with you.   You want them to see it, feel it, get emotional about it and to do that you need to be descriptive because if they can’t relate to what you’re talking about they won’t stick around.

Don’t use jargon or assume knowledge

This will depend on your audience because if you’re doing a show for rocket scientists you’re obviously going to use a few words us regular chumps won’t know.  Whatever language you use it’s important to have your listener in mind and recognise that using jargon doesn’t make you sound smart, it makes people feel excluded.

Create a show language

Don’t be afraid to use language that makes your listeners feel part of a club but be mindful to do it in a way where people can catch on pretty quickly.  As you grow your audience new listeners will almost always start with your latest episode and work their way back so if you’re pulling out ‘in jokes’ every two seconds and it looks to a new listener like they’ll need to listen to all 300 episodes to work out WTF you’re talking about you’ll lose them.

iphone-photos_4657Using words that make your listeners feel a part of your team is a great way to bring them into the show and build a lasting connection.  With Paul and Rach, both in the podcast and on our drive show we called everyone a “mad rooter.”   Why? Who the hell knows.  It was one of those terms we found funny so it started to creep into the show, then we started calling the listeners mad rooters, then they would ring us and call us mad rooters and the club was born.  If you were a Paul and Rach listener, you were a mad rooter.  Even now, seven years after we started that show, if fans contact us to ask us to bring it back they still call us mad rooters and that’s the best thing ever.  Having a shared language with your audience including a name for loyal fans builds a connection that lasts long after the show is finished.

So, there you have it, some ways to connect with your audience through the words you use.  Next week I’ll look at how to tackle the most versatile part of presenting – tone.   Tone gives you an incredible amount of control over how your show sounds and can build a connection with your listeners that’s as strong as if you were staring them right in the eye.

Want more help starting your own podcast?  Check out PodSchool, my online podcasting course that takes you through all the technical aspects of recording, editing and uploading a podcast as well as professional tips on how to create a great show from years of working as a professional presenter.

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