by Jeffrey Hedquist
With radio you can create any picture in the listener’s mind you want, in a myriad of hues, and yet radio has only four colors to work with: voices, music, sound effects, and silence.
Silence is the one that is often overlooked. The judicious use of silence can make or break a radio commercial. How do you learn how to use silence effectively? Listen to stand-up comics. Listen to radio drama. Listen to storytellers. Listen to effective speech makers. Pick up on how they pause just before delivering important points of the story or a punch line.
Sometimes leaving a few pauses in your commercial for silence can drive home a point much more effectively and emphatically than trying to fill up the full 60 or 30 seconds with copy.
Silence can be used as a dramatic contrast as well. When a commercial is filled with music or sound effects, stopping those background sounds dead and leaving a pause, or having the voice speak over silence can be one of the most dramatic ways to make a point.
Again, it’s a reminder that for emphasis, being quieter can sometimes work better than being louder. In a world of chaos, noise, and nonstop sound, the effective use of silence can be your best selling tool.
After a career spent in places filled with sound, Jeffrey Hedquist now creates radio for advertisers and agencies all over the country from Fairfield, Iowa, where there is an abundance of silence. You can quietly contact Jeffrey at Hedquist Productions, Inc., P.O. Box 1475, Fairfield, IA 52556. Phone (515) 472-6708, fax (515) 472-7400, email