Learning Presentation Skills from Radio Announcers – Part 3 – The Theatre of the Mind

Radio announcers use stories to unleash what’s called the “Theatre of the mind” , creating pictures in the minds of the listeners, and emotions in their hearts. They have no visual props, no PowerPoint, no video,  but they can still create the effect with just a microphone and their voice.

Orson Welles, was so good at communicating with the audience and creating the theatre of the mind, that he set a nation into panic , in 1938, with War of the Worlds, where he presented HG Welles’ novel as a simulated news broadcast. People ran into the streets with wet towels as makeshift gas masks to protect against the poison gas the radio said was headed toward them. Many were convinced it was the end of the world.

From wikipedia:

War of the Worlds

Orson Welles

Orson Welles

Their October 30 1938 broadcast, H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, brought Welles notoriety and instant fame on both a national and international level. The mixture of news bulletin format with the between-breaks dial spinning habits of listeners from the rival and far more popular Edgar Bergen/Charlie McCarthy program, created widespread confusion among late tuners. Panic spread among many listeners who believed the news reports of an actual Martian invasion. The resulting panic was duly reported around the world and disparagingly mentioned by Adolf Hitler in a public speech a few months later.Welles’s growing fame soon drew Hollywood offers, lures which the independent-minded Welles resisted at first. However, The Mercury Theatre on the Air, which had been a “sustaining show” (without sponsorship) was picked up by Campbell Soup and renamed The Campbell Playhouse.

You can download a copy of the broadcast here PS. It’s just audio.

There are lots of articles on the power of stories, because they are a powerful tool for keeping your audience engaged. They engage the listener’s mind, recreating scenes in their heads, and each will have a different picture. Ask a few of your friends what they think the Three Bears’ house looks like, inside and out, and you’ll be surprised at the different responses. Individuals create their own theatre images.

Stories should be appropriate for the topic, preferably from your own experience, short, and original. Use them to introduce or illustrate a topic.

Create the “theatre of the mind” in your audience.

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