Back in another life, I spent a couple of years doing academic research into infant language development. Most of these experiments involved a baby or child hearing a recorded or live presentation of scripted language, and then doing some thing or another, depending on the experiment.
One experiment I led was designed to explore what linguists call â€œinfant-directed speechâ€. Itâ€™s that sing-songy way we talk to babies, usually without even realizing weâ€™re doing it: our average pitch goes up, and we increase the overall range of pitch we use â€“ hence the sing-songy part â€“ and we speak more slowly and use simpler words.
There was one major hurdle we needed to cross in developing the audio stimuli for this experiment â€“ and that was that we adults pretty much only speak authentic infant-directed speech when weâ€™re actually talking to a baby. But when recording stimuli for a scientific experiment, you need to eliminate all background noise â€“ you canâ€™t have a baby gurgling or moving around or cooing or screaming in the background. To approximate this as best we could, we taped a photo of an adorable baby in front of the microphone, and made sure the person recording the audio looked at it the whole time she was speaking.
I thought of this yesterday while I was writing an email about some consulting Iâ€™m going to do with an academic team, to help them figure out a social-media strategy for a major web-based program theyâ€™re going to launch soon. Theyâ€™ll need to reach a wide variety of people, and so theyâ€™re going to need to use channels and styles that will effectively reach them all.
Maybe Iâ€™ll suggest they keep a photo or drawing of each kind of person up on the wall, so they can address them effectively as they write their posts.
Sounds silly, but I bet itâ€™d help.