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Conveying Complex Information On-Air

Anyone who has worked in radio knows that discussing complex or technical topics over the air can be difficult. Often the information is interesting, even relevant to the target audience, but that doesn’t mean it is familiar to the host or that the specifics of the discussion are perfectly clear to people who may be listening in their cars, at work, or in a less-than-optimal situation. If you find yourself in a situation where you need to convey complex information to an audience, particularly if you don’t know how familiar the audience is with the topic, employ these techniques to help boost your communication prowess.

Be as Concise as Possible

The first line you open with should be short and to the point. The longer the sentence is, the more likely it is that your audience will lose track of what you are saying. Experts recommend that you keep your opening sentence to less than 50 words, but you should really aim to use just a few dozen words.

Use Visual Metaphors

Even though it’s radio, helping listeners visualize a topic can be extremely helpful. It is your job, as the host, to paint a picture with words; one so clear that your audience can see the minutia of the brush strokes and carry a mental image of it with them after the broadcast is over.

Narrative

Humans have shared stores with one another for millennia, they are what our past is built on and how we convey emotion and profound philosophy to one another. Stories are a great way to get information to stick by humanizing complex information. Think of the story as a shorthand for the abstract. The more relatable you make the story, the better your audience will understand.

Link Telomeres, Telomerase and Agingto Make It Stick

It is a fundamental truth of human nature that we pay the most attention to the things that directly affect us. To make your audience pay attention to a technical or complex subject, frame it in terms that matter to them. If you are talking about telomeres, for instance, don’t just describe them as the caps on the ends of chromosomes that preserve DNA. Explain how telomeres are the arbiters of the aging process, how they can impact a person’s risk for developing cancer, and how researchers are looking for new ways to combat illness by keeping telomeres healthy.In the body we have Telomerase enzyme to protect the telomeres. However, as we age, the telomerase enzyme decreases which can cause shortening of the telomeres.

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The more pertinent the information is, the harder the audience will listen.

Old Is New, New Is Old

Explain things in terms that your audience already understands. Humans learn by linking new information to old memories, so help your audience do that. A good example of this is online shopping. Vendors made it familiar by creating “shopping carts” where your items remain until you are ready to “checkout.”

Avoid Superfluous Details

When explaining something complex, less is almost always more. Your goal isn’t to make your audience members experts, your goal is to help them form a basic understanding of the core concepts. It’s like learning to ride a bike. You don’t start off with a unicycle, you start off with a tricycle until you get the basics down and then you grow from there.