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Train journey conversation and communication lessons learnt

Posted by Emma Nicol | 15 May 2016

Categories: Communications Design

Volume symbol

I’m sure we’ve all had those train journeys where we are subjected to a vocal human boom box sharing their conversation with the entire train. This morning I had that very joy but it did make me consider this environment in relation to how we communicate through campaigns and marketing messages. There were lessons to be learnt from the megaphone passenger.

My experience this morning homed in on three things:

  • Volume
  • Awareness of the environment
  • Clarity of information

Volume – this is the obvious one but are we always aware of how far we need our message to be heard? The woman on the train was speaking to her friend literally opposite her so the conversation only needed to be a very moderate level for that reach.

When we pitch our messages and our volume – what does the volume need to be – local, national, a nudge, urgent action, a confirmation? Is the volume set accordingly? It’s obvious that we all want our communication to be heard all of the time but if the volume is always on maximum there’s never any intonation and nuance to our long term dialogue.

Awareness of the environment – are we communicating in the right place at the right level and aware of that environment? This should go hand in hand with volume. The lady in question this morning clearly had no awareness of her surroundings. The train was surprisingly empty for a morning commuter train and therefore ‘very quiet’. There’s usually an unspoken etiquette on a train and a very respectable concern for the fellow passengers. This is also prompted by the odd smattering of official stickers about being considerate to our fellow travellers – but these are usually aimed at people listening to ear-bleeding music not Megaphone Marthas.

We need to consider the space in which we are speaking and be aware of our surroundings for our ‘voice’ to be heard and respected.

Clarity of information – is our message concise and to the point? Foghorn Leghorn on my train was constantly repeating her point. “I like the new flat white from our coffee shop, I do love the flat white, yes I’m very very fond of the coffee there, lovely new coffee yes” – is it like, love or very very fond? And why four times, the volume was certainly loud enough?

Is it that the message isn’t clear, or is it just not engaging enough to the audience? If you really have to repeat yourself do ensure that the message is clear. And always make sure it’s consistent if repeated.

My train eventually crawled into London Bridge and I’d moved carriages in the end, as had a few fellow passengers wanting to work or read, so I got to write down my thoughts in a relatively quiet environment, interrupted only by the ‘important delay announcements’ by the driver.

I have no idea whether the announcements were heard in the carriage with the human megaphone.

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