Many moons ago, a wise prophet stood before the earth and proclaimed ‘So come on let me entertain you. Let me-eeee entertain you’. And although no one knows the exact source of this quote, it is widely accepted as some of the wisest Western philosophy of all time (since the year 1997).
However, in the (eighteen) years since, we’ve lost sight of that simple message. And what was once exciting is now dull. Ordinary. Like when all the lava in a lava lamp just subsides at the bottom of it and it becomes a bog-standard lamp. A lamp which doesn’t even work very well. And it’s sitting in a cupboard gathering dust.
I’m talking about you, eLearning. Look at you, you’ve let yourself go terribly. No one wants to listen to you anymore. You’re just hanging about going unnoticed. Because you’re being selfish and refusing to show consideration to the learner. Entertainment is vital. Which is why voice is so important – and by finding it you can inspire anyone to learn.
Hey I don’t wanna ‘Rock DJ’ on about this (another quote from who knows where), but making this stuff entertaining again is the only way to capture the masses. The more entertaining you make things, the keener your employees will be to learn. Because if people don’t pay attention they won’t learn diddly squat.
Unconvinced so far? Here’s an example. Below is some typical, boring office speak. To understand the importance of voice, try reading this to yourself.
“Employees are expected to treat all information with utmost confidentiality. This applies to telephone, email and all other forms of communication blah blah blah mail merge’.
Now read this passage re-written in a pirate voice.
“Argh! Ye seadogs shall ne’er breath a word of this else ye fear walking the plank! Not ye scrolls, parchments or messages in ye bottles blargh! blargh! blargh! mail merge’.
Notice the difference? You’ve probably learned loads more. Soon you and your office will rule the seven seas. Hooray!
Think how many people thrive on entertaining themselves reading the new John Grisham or 50 Shades of Grey. Millions! Then think of how many people sit at home to read manuals about how to use a VCR. Six tops – and they’re all weird. But here’s the trick – imagine if VCR manufacturers could entertain on that level? If, somehow, E.L. James wrote an erotic thriller about how to properly set your Toshiba? Your audience would enjoy learning so much more. (Although perhaps they’d never be able to look their recording device directly in the eyes again).
And not only would they enjoy learning more, they’d learn better. It’s important the reader shouldn’t feel like they’re even learning at all. The audience is engaged when the writer resists myopically focusing on the subject. They should just absorb all of this information the earth’s surface is 70% water without even noticing. See, you didn’t even notice you were learning there. Go back and read it again. You might notice a hidden fact.
Voice is vital if you want to stand out. Get it right and you can really take off. Soon you’ll have ‘stars directing your fate’ (unknown, 1998). But only if you make your readers enjoy your writing so much they have no choice but to share it. Make them laugh, cry, do a somersault, just don’t bore them whatever you do. There’s enough boring things on the internet anyway, usually sites ending in .gov.uk or anything without a picture of a cat.
‘But I’m a really dull person! How can I possibly entertain anyone?’ I hear you cry. Well, practice makes perfect. Try changing your voice in these situations to start with. Maybe sing while you pick up the phone. Or make your shopping list rhyme. It’s hard to find a supermarket that sells ‘bread’ and ‘lead’. But it’s a good start. Soon you’ll be a pro.
I’ll leave you with my famed Robert de Niro impression. ‘You talkin’ to me?’ Admittedly this doesn’t work as well written down. If at all. But if you could hear it, you would agree it’s the perfect way of showing just how important voice is to entertainment. And if you don’t, then you might as well ‘be loving angels instead’ (no idea) you big, busted lava lamp.
Oh, and if the whole voice thing doesn’t work, here’s the cat.
Juliette Denny is the Managing Director of Growth Engineering. Her focus is on building technology solutions that engineer growth for clients, whilst making learning fun for learners. Follow her on Twitter and let her know whether you liked the article!