Anything worth watching is being recorded. For whatever reason, we can no longer enjoy an experience and "be in the moment"; life is now consumed through a viewfinder. This theorem was highlighted on my recent trip to New York City. Of course, you could expect to have everyone aiming their cameras at all the usual targets; Times Square, Empire State Building and Bruno Mars performing at Rockefeller Center. But, in our youtube society anything deemed slightly interesting is being recorded as well. Dancers at the train station, a man spray painted silver pretending to be a robot, kids beating on empty paint cans like drums and even those creepers dressed like Sesame Street characters. All these deemed worthy of society of consuming and sharing with others.
This brought me back to my early days of radio. It was 1989 and we had just moved to Seattle. I heard all the local radio stations would be out at the Evergreen State Fair performing their broadcast magic. I couldn't wait to be dazzled! I remember impatiently getting through traffic and finally being guided to my parking space. I was then herded through the cramped entrance and had to quickly weave through the Carnis and Agricultural displays. Finally, I had arrived...radio row! Somewhere Handel's Messiah was ringing out.
At this moment I slowed, wanting to savor each one. What new creative ideas would entice and delight my senses? I couldn't wait to find out. The first booth was fronted by a folding 6' table with a black table cloth. On it were black and white photos of the "talent" that was nowhere to be found and an Enter to Win box for a trip to Ocean Shores. In the rear of the booth sat two individuals. They could have been empolyees or interns or even homeless people. I'll never know because they never once engaged or even acknowledged me. They just chatted with eachother while shoveling scones into their gaping pie holes. Yikes, maybe it was the local AM station, surely the next one would be better. Unfortunately, this scene was played out over and over again. Nothing came anywhere close to my expectations and I went home bitterly disappointed in the industry I had glamorized. At that moment I vowed to be different.
Fast-forward to this week. I was on the phone speaking with a friend who works for a radio station in a market far, far away. He was telling me that he was getting ready to go to a Festival and be at his station's booth with absolutely nothing going on. Huh? Nothing going on. You mean I'm supposed to be enamored with you because you showed up and exposed me to your logo? Sorry, instead you'll quickly be forgotten. Worse yet, you'll disappoint current and potential new listeners.
Radio is entertainment! It's engagement and community and emotion. It's media. If you're going out to do an event this Summer take a look at your booth. Is there anything there that would cause me to stop, take my camera out and share what you've got going on? If not, don't do it! Start again and create an experience that's memorable. You and your listeners will never regret it.