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.

Learn Presentation Skills From Radio Announcers – part 1

In Presentations, focus on “You”

Here are a a couple of tips on presenting from a radio announcer’s point-of-view.

Who does a radio announcer speak to? This is a trick question. The answer is a singular “YOU” – good radio announcers don’t say

“Hello to all you listeners out there” , they say something like;

“Hello, how are you today?”

Their audience is someone like

• the person in the car wanting traffic information and news,

• someone at home listening to the radio for companionship, or

• someone filling a silence while working

But each is an individual who needs to be treated as  the only person listening out there. We’re lucky with our language in that “YOU” is both singular and plural, so when you use it in a presentation, individuals feel as though you are addressing them directly. Use this to your advantage to create inclusion.

The rule is very little “I’

Not much more “we” (because “We” can mean  “you and me” or “me and someone else”)

Lots of “YOU”


There is a school of thought the we use um, ahh and err as verbal placeholders so that we don’t lose our turn in the conversation. Irrespective, if you use it too much in a presentation it becomes very distracting to the audience. I remember a lecturer from my Army days who had this bad habit. Most of the class spent the period counting the verbal pauses and didn’t really take anything in.

One technique is to focus on what you are saying and when the temptation comes to use the placeholder, breathe in, rather than out. You are not then able to vocalise the words.

Another technique is to actively listen to what you are saying. Most people don’t, but it tends to make your speech slower and more deliberate. Not a bad thing for the audience.

Learning Presentation Skills From Advertisers

Selling the sizzle, not the sausage.


Advertisers use their words, images and stories to influence you to purchase a product service or solution or to support a cause or person. They often communicate messages to make you believe that some brands are superior, not because they are intrinsically better, but because the brand will make you cool. This branding is reinforced through logos, product placement, and all sorts of messages to convince you that the product is unique. Think of the times you have responded to advertising:

• you’ve applied for a job

• you’ve bought a cool pair of sneakers

• you’ve voted for a particular political candidate.

What effect did the advertisement have on this? Continue reading

Learning From Actors – Three Blind Mice – Matthew Newton


I was putting the (almost)  finishing touches on this site today but had to leave my beloved HTML and CSS to go to the movies with my wife. It was a great occasion, a screening of the Australian movie Three Blind Mice, directed by and starring Matthew Newton.That’s not quite correct, the whole cast was exceptional without any cringe moment that you sometimes get in Australian movies. Each of them deserves a star over their door.

The movie is about three naval officers on their last night before going to Iraq.

Matthew attended the screening at the Blue Room Cinebar, fielding questions afterward.

One great scene has one of the officers, Sam ( Ewen Leslie),  lying on the grass in a park at night with a waitress (Gracie Otto). There’s  that nervous banter and awkward physical movement of two people trying to connect that is charming and endearing.

One of the audience asked Matthew whether the scene was scripted  or ad lib, as it seemed so natural, awkward and real. Matthew replied it was indeed scripted, every last word and awkward pause. It had been shot many times and the best pieces incorporated, the rest left on the cutting room floor.

Takeaway points for presenters:

  • Rehearse until it seems natural
  • Discard the bits that don’t work