Age Appropriate

Age appropriate, what does that mean? Let’s start with movies. Ocean’s 11 one of my favorite movies. George Clooney is the star. Ocean’s 11, 12, 13—I like all of them. In the first scene of Ocean’s 11, Danny Ocean looks about 20 years younger than George Clooney. In fact, the first time I saw this scene, I didn’t even recognize him. Why did the director do that? He wanted me to understand that this scene took place in an earlier part of the character’s life by contrasting the old Clooney with the made up Clooney (or should I say made young).

What about Susan Sarandon’s latest movie The Meddler? It’s a story about a mother who meddles (go figure) and, you guessed it, Sarandon is the mother. It is kind of a cute movie. In real life, Susan Sarandon is 69 years old. However, in this movie she is 60, or maybe, 55—somewhere in that range. The director decreased the years with the way she was dressed, her hair was nicely done in a younger style, she always had perfect makeup… could not see a wrinkle or a line. Plus, the screenwriters did not allow any verbal communication about frailties of aging.

What about cartoons? Those are the ones that really blow me away. For instance, as watch Zootopia and the star of the movie, Lieutenant Judy Hop, I would guess that in the movie Judy is just out of high school or just finished school. She wants to make something of herself. She’s single and she doesn’t know the ways of the world. In other words, I have every impression that Judy Hop is in her twenties. Jennifer Goodwin, the voice of Hop, is 38 in real life. How did the director do that? He dressed the voice different and that’s what we do on the air.

We dress our voice. But how do we dress our voice? Our delivery system, behind the mic, does not have pictures. Even when it does, what we say (how we dress our voice with words and content choices) can shade what people see with their eyes. There is plenty of political proof of that statement.

The words we use are so important that it can mean the difference between success and failure for your show, podcast, vidcast, or career. The trick is to figure out who is listening, or who you want to listen, and the use their language. That point is really important. For example, if you are talking to a thirty-two-year-old woman or a 35-year-old woman and wanting to relate to them and with them, it is not likely that you’re going to say my grandchildren came over yesterday. You have to be careful of your life situation bleeding over into your on-mic conversation. You are dressing your voice with the words.

The word “epic” is over now but there was a time when it was the thing to say. If you were in that 20-something crowd, the people who give us our slang, then you would have been saying that all the time when it was a thing; “it was epic” or “epic fail.” Now, when you hear it you instantly know that the person rolling it out is posing.

Translate the language of your audience. You can dress yourself appropriately for any audience. For instance, street talk will just not resonate with an older audience. You might as well use the Greek language to an all English audience.

The issues we’re trying to get over is not that we want to fake anyone out; We simply don’t want to make people feel uncomfortable. The listener comfort makes them able to better receive our message. With language and word choices we remove the blockage. We remove the things that are going to cause the listener to take a pause and go question whether or not they actually want to listen to you. The more you include their language set, the more that you talk in their language, the more that they’re going to hear you when you have something to say.

Whatever your messages you want them to hear you, so age appropriate means your age appropriate for the listener.

Two events brought on this subject. The first one was a coaching session where a question was asked about revealing specific events in the hosts life. The second event happened at Walmart. We were shopping with our daughter and our, soon-to-be son-in-law. We were just kind of walking around shopping and I’m always the first to get bored in those situations. That means I start to wander and look around. You know, try to create an adventure that isn’t touching and feeling various articles of clothing with my wife and daughter. During my great Walmart adventure I happened upon a display on the end of the isle. It was an enormous display of toy singer sewing machines. Wow, I thought to myself, this is all wrong!

Someone missed the boat! People who sew are not in the generation that are buying goods from Walmart. The generation that would buy from Walmart have not learned to sew. Not because of any economic or other disadvantage but because our culture had changed so much that sewing isn’t a thing for Millennials or Xer’s for that matter.

Walmart is a discount store. A large majority of the shopping clientele have not yet reached their income potential because they don’t have enough years. That generation of people buy most of their clothes (instead of creating them on a sewing machine) from Marshalls, T.J.Maxx, or wherever. The point is that they were selling a something that the Walmart target audience (in large portions) could not relate to because of their culture and demography. I suspect many of the walk-by customers could not even understand what the things were on display. Worse than that, the store was selling toy machines! Think about that. If I’m Walmart, then I expect a generation that did not grow up sewing, and in many cases not learning to sew, to buy a toy for their child in the form of a sewing machine. Consequently, not one of the machines had sold—even at the marked down price.

Make sure your content and word usage is age appropriate for your listener.