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What a small pink newsreader’s earpiece can teach us all about communicating with clients 21 January 2019

A newsreader’s earpiece is a funny little thing.  Mine is translucent, a moulded piece of plastic about two inches long that always reminds me of the new-born hamsters I once bred as a ten year old boy.  It’s specially moulded to fit into my ear, with a thin clear cable that leads to a socket, in turn connecting me to the team in the control room.  There’s a clip so it’s neat and tidy at the back of my suit. 

I mention all this, because my own precious earpiece was involved in a little incident the other day that got me thinking about how we are perceived by our clients and customers, and the risks we run when we assume they know as much as we do.

I had been invited to deliver my keynote talk, Secret Life of a News Bulletin, to the Gatwick Diamond Business Annual Speakers’ Conference.  The talk is always great fun — involving video and audio clips that reveal the barked dialogue that’s heard in the control room when a bulletin is live on air, and not going entirely to plan.  The takeaways for a business audience are simple:  here’s how we cope when we’re under real pressure, here’s how decisions are made when a decision is needed within 30 seconds, here’s how we ensure that all our news fits neatly into a precise timeslot. 

About ten minutes into my talk, a hand went up at the back.  “I just want to check” the questioner asked, “you’re not hearing all that information in your ear while you’re reading the news, are you?”   Many others in the audience clearly wanted to hear the answer, too.  I was a bit taken aback.  Well, yes, I replied — that’s the point, really.  That’s what newsreaders do.  

By not flagging that fact up much earlier in the presentation, I’d made a basic assumption about an audience’s knowledge.  I was quite cross with myself, because as journalists, our job is to strip things back and explain things from the start.  Do you sometimes make the same mistake with your clients and customers?  Do you use language that’s every-day to you, but may be meaningless to them?  Do you fully set the scene, in plain English?   I’ve just sat through an online video tutorial for some new accounting software that my accountant has coaxed me into using, but I barely understood it because it assumed I knew what ‘reconciling’ means.  Maybe I should.  But I don’t.

So I’ve now popped a slide into my presentation that shows my hamster-like earpiece, and in future I’ll emphasise that this is the miracle piece of pink plastic that enables news journalists to do their jobs.  I may even bring it along and hand it around the room — though whether anyone will want to handle something that’s spent nearly twenty years in and out of my ear, I’m not so sure. 

If you’re looking for someone to entertain for 45 minutes or so, while giving some bang-on business tips on coping with pressure and getting things done, Secret Life of a News Bulletin might be right for you.  (I’ve also got plenty of interactive TV news themed material that will fill a morning or even a day.)  Do give me a call on 07850 188620 and we can have a chat.

 

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