What Makes You Cringe?

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(By Randy Lane) I was mesmerized and cringing while watching the Oscar-winning documentary Free Solo with Alex Hannold climbing over 3,000 feet of sheer granite on Yosemite’s El Capitan without ropes! It occurred to me that documentaries are an outstanding model for maintaining an audience’s attention.

Broadcasters are in the business of attracting and maintaining the audience’s attention. Watch any great documentary, such as Leaving Neverland, RBG, or Won’t You Be My Neighbor and note that the same techniques for keeping viewer’s attention apply to every segment of your show/podcast.

The Power of Story: Documentaries are all about stories. Take listeners on an emotional journey with backstories, quests, dilemmas, setbacks, flashbacks, conflicts, humor, or challenges that include insights, point of view, and inner dialogue.

Break the Pattern: Documentaries are loaded with a myriad of devices to hold your attention by disrupting patterns. The camera angles change every few seconds to redirect your attention. Plan every content segment of your show to move the content forward with multiple pattern changes every few seconds.

Audio clips are excellent attention-getters. Also, use sound effects to illustrate a story, punctuate humor, or for dramatic comments.

Air a caller to break the pattern.

Vocal dynamics: Raise or lower your voice volume and tone to match content. Silence can be deafening. The audience will lean into a gap of silence to absorb what was just said or anticipate what will be said next.

Vulnerable moments: The camera goes close-up on vulnerability. Your voice goes lower and your authenticity higher.

Make a lightning rod or provocative statement.

Awkward or cringe content gets an emotional reaction from listeners.

Change music beds or deliver a dramatic headline starting a new story in a feature like “What’s Trending” or when switching topics.

An infectious or intrusive laugh accentuates humor and enhances the fun factor.

Voice disguiser: Using a harmonizer to disguise someone’s voice who wants to remain anonymous is an effective way to pull in the audience for juicy content.

Randy Lane launched his media talent coaching and personal brand development company in 1996. He can be contacted by phone at 805-497-7177 or email at [email protected]

1 COMMENT

  1. For excellent audio storytelling tune in to any NPR station for an example of “sound rich” audio content.

    Good ideas here…except for disguising someone’s voice-that is cringe worthy.

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