On or Off?

Robert Mills

This weekend I spent a few days at the Hay Festival, an art and literature festival held annually in Hay-on-Wye, Wales. I’m going to summarise the talks I went to in another post but I wanted to digress here about the tone of voice at the festival. Before each event they had slides with news and info on. One in particular caught my eye as it said:

Please turn your mobiles back on at the end of the session and tell your friends about how fab it was.

The informal and friendly tone here seemed perfectly placed at the venue and they showed consistency in this tone of voice with other signage dotted around. What I like about it isn’t just the friendliness but the fact that they shifted the emphasis onto the positive.

In cinemas, theatres and on planes we are more formally instructed to turn our phones off. That’s fine as we are so connected to our mobile devices that a little reminder to turn them off is needed, but I like the Hay approach because it didn’t feel like an order or a telling off like other mobile related notices do. In fact, they don’t even tell or ask us to turn off our phones, they assume we have or will by asking us nicely to turn them back on after the event.

This is an effective way of getting an audience to do something without using any negative words. It’s a great example of how important your choice of words are, the impact they can have and the tone that they convey in the way your sentence is constructed.

Needless to say, no mobiles went off in this particular session so next time I have to write something similar I am going to focus on the positives and hopefully get people to do what’s needed without coming across as shouty, bossy or formal.