‘Theatre of the Mind’: why it really matters which words you use on your podcast

M&S adverts get it right.

So do Burger King.

Ads for holidays, usually, too.

Why? Because they are able to use words to transport you somewhere. You can TASTE the food they’re trying to sell you, or FEEL the sand in between your toes and gentle breeze from the ocean.

It’s called ‘Theatre of the Mind’. It’s a radio phrase that washed out old programmers like me used to throw at presenters to try to get them to be more creative with their language. But it’s so, so true – and even more relevant in today’s content-packed world.

The words you use, and how you use them, are super important. Think about food menus. The adjectives they throw in are what really make your mind up. ‘Hamburger with fries’ isn’t going to jump off the page but ‘juicy succulent 100% beef burger in a toasted brioche bun, with hand-cut triple-cooked chips’ is going to get you salivating.

(By the way, ‘hand-cut’ is one of the most ridiculous phrases in the world. How something is going to taste better whether it’s cut by person or machine is beyond me… but as a marketing concept, it works.)

In audio it’s even more useful.

Describing the process of ‘getting out of bed, making breakfast, then getting in the car to drive to work’ sounds pretty boring right?

But what if I described how I ‘squinted as I opened my eyes, while the morning sunshine flooded through the curtains, then dragged my tired, heavy legs out of bed and drudged into the kitchen…’

You can actually see it in your mind as I’m describing it to you.

Theatre of the mind.

It’s that simple. It’s about switching from purely functional language, to taking me on a journey.

Make me see what you see. Make me hear what you hear. Most importantly, make me feel what you feel.

Next time you’re recording an episode, take a bit of time beforehand to think about something you know you’ll be talking about. How can you elaborate in a way which really brings it to life?

How can you take me to the place where you were? Let me experience the situation you were in. Go on, make me feel what you feel.