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About writing your script

In both, clarity of thought and presentation is essential. If your thoughts are muddled, then your audience will not be able to follow your reasoning.

It is important that you think about how your audience will hear what you say. That means it's important that you think like your audience when you read your script before recording it.

Here's ten top tips for making sure your message reaches your audience in the form you intend.

1. You might be really knowledgeable but your knowledge might be different from that of your really knowledgeable listener.

For example, an American might blithely talk about SARS and a South African listener will hear what he says.

But what the South African understands will not be what the American intended to communicate.

The American is talking about suspicious activity reports and the South African is thinking about the South African Revenue Service. So he has to try to work out what the presenter is talking about before he can pay attention to what is being said.

In short, you didn't think that some people have very different uses for the same acronym and even though they may know yours, it's not the one that first comes to their mind.

It doesn't matter if you say "suspicious activity reports- SARS " and continue to use SARS: because he's still been distracted.  If you want to know how big this problem can become in an international environment, look up how many organisations use, or have used, the initials FSA.

So, kill the acronyms. All of them. Except, maybe, those like FATF and IMF.  You will be presenting to a global audience: do not assume that what is common in your country or, even, industry is common to everyone else.

2. Don't use buzzwords - often they are nonsense or misleading.

Look, I'm an English lawyer, we might not have invented the "term of art" but we perfected it. And amongst other lawyers it's fine. Indeed, it's extremely valuable.

But outside our little world, it's a patois, a form of dialect that has become so removed from the mother tongue that it's almost a language of its own. 

"Red Flags" - a red flag is not a sign of danger ahead - it's an instruction. The correct flag for warning, the one that says "take care ahead" is yellow. I could go into precisely why a red flag is exactly what we do not need in the vast majority of cases but this isn't the place for that tutorial. Here, let me simply suggest that instead of using that false flag (haha) you say "warning signs."

3. Don't use words you don't understand: your credibility is at stake. Don't invent words , like the moronic "hawalas" - it's not a word and repetition won't make it so. Using non-words as if they are proper words makes you sound stupid. That's not the point of your 'cast, is it?  

Your credibility is your reputation. Lose that and you, too, become lost.

4. Don't fall into the trap that gets me every time. Don't write for the page, using long sentences and complex paragraphs. People don't listen in the same way that they read. Short sentences and single point paragraphs have a longer retention than a passage that drags in the middle.

5. Write for attention spans that last seconds not minutes. I don't mean jumping around like a cartoon character : I mean make your point, clearly, and move on.

That doesn't mean that you can't develop complex themes: you can and in many cases should. But you have to structure them so that listeners aren't kept guessing like a mystery film. Often, in a purely aural presentation, you have to give the end of the story before you can start at the beginning.

There's a caveat: do not imagine that this means dumbing down your content. Don't treat your listeners as children; just be aware of the limitations of the medium. It's not like presenting on a stage: you can't see their reaction, you don't know if they are laughing at your jokes or sharing in your indignant response to something which is why you are doing your podcast. Or if they have turned off.

6. It's important that you don't leave things open to misinterpretation.  There are many theories as to the causes but in recent times, there has been an increase in misunderstandings or, perhaps, to the prominence given to them.

It is common, today, to find someone claiming to be a victim of someone else's [insert here anything from "thoughtlessness" to pretty much any pejorative -ism you can think of].  So say what you mean and mean what you say. Hashtag warriors seem to get off on finding contorted meanings and then deciding to "shame" the person they have picked on.

Do say what you mean to say without fear of reprisals, if that's what you want to say. But if you are concerned as to whether to say something, it's better to not talk about it than to try to skirt around it in the hope that no one will claim to be offended. Having said that, do not shy away from controversy and supported, reasoned, arguments just because they will offend those who want to be offended.  Don't cower before synthetic rage.

It's not only those who are looking for reasons to criticise that present a risk to your message: it's also that there are many variants of languages: English, French, Spanish and Malay are examples. The best part of a century ago, Oscar Wilde wrote "We have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language."

Both English and American have changed significantly since then and in some cases we see 17th Century English in use in the USA while it has become out of place in English and we see 20th Century American which is, in some cases, exactly the opposite of the use of the same words and phrases in English and is, more often, at least confusing or misleading.

Taking English as an example, there are dozens of variations around the world. I'd love to make a suggestion as to a conclusive approach to adopt but there isn't one. I use English.

I am fully aware that around the world some people, more used to American, might be confused. I try to mitigate it, often by explaining something a different way but it's impossible to avoid. Having said that, one should always try, in all things, to achieve the impossible because only in that way do we achieve excellence and/or progress.

7. When you have written your piece, go through it again and mark where you intend to insert pauses, where the emphasis should lie and even, if you wish, places to speed up and slow down. You are, after all, delivering a monologue and if you listen to the most effective monologues you will realise that they have rhythm, changes of pace, variations in tone and volume. Your natural enthusiasm for your subject will often be a great guide - but remember that you probably speak faster than most people hear.

For example, I was once timed, speaking in public, at 186 words per minute and I thought I was being leisurely. When I spoke normally, it was more than 230. This is far, far too fast for an audience. The target should be an average of about 150. Believe me - the difference between 186 and 150 is immense. 150 is an average. So your 'cast script should be about 9*150 words =13500. Why nine minutes for a ten minute 'cast? That's because it leaves a minute for your intro and outro. See the About Your Intro and Outro page

8. Identify your market and speak to it. Once an exhibition organiser whose name I have now forgotten gave me a piece of advice that has stood me in good stead in many circumstances. Actually, there were two pieces of advice.

The first is that in an exhibition, as people walk by, you have only two seconds to grab their attention. Think about that and it explains why so many restaurants employ greeters to guide passers-by through their doors.

The second is that grabbing their attention is no use if your message doesn't register. For this, he said, the message must have "you-ability." In short, in your first few moments - which includes your printed teaser, to grab the attention of someone browsing the internet and to tell them why your message relates to him or her. So your teaser is a vital tool to get people to click on your 'cast and your intro is a vital tool to make them listen past the first few seconds.


9. Base your script on the essay rules you were taught at school: let there be a beginning, a middle and an end.

But try not to make it too obvious that you are following what most lawyers are told about appearing before junior judges: tell them what you are going to say, tell them what you are saying, then tell them what you've said.  That and "just think of the judge sitting naked then you won't be nervous" are the worst pieces of advice to give any advocate and yet, even today, they are still given.

Do outline your premise, make your pitch, then close off with something memorable so your presentation stays in the mind of the audience. Your outline can form the introduction on your 'cast page so craft it carefully.

10. A short tag line that you use each time can be useful, because people get used to hearing it; a standardised introduction is also helpful.

Creating boomerang listeners.

It reads like a mine-field, doesn't it?  It isn't. It's just stuff that helps build and retain an audience because, after all, you want them to come back again and again and again.

Boomerang listeners. Maybe I should patent that.