The word “broadcast” has its origins in agriculture, specifically in seeding. If we take a single seed and plant it in a specific location, that’s precision seeding. If we load up a spreader and evenly spread a lot of seeds over a wide area – that’s broadcast seeding or broadcasting. There’s more to seeding than just putting the seed out there – we’ve got soil, sunlight, water, and other factors to contend with too. There’s a lot to learn from the broadcast metaphor.
The connection to media and communication is obvious. Communication is the spreading of ideas. Ideas, like seeds, can grow into something greater with proper care. Broadcast television is the piping of channels into households across the country with the knowledge not everyone can watch every channel all at once, but some people will watch some things and take hold of their attention. Both methods have the seed and then the context of where it’s being planted and what extra attention will be required.
Professionally, we can think of a one on one conversation as precisely planting an idea (see this post on narrowcasting). If we want to see growth, we’ll need to consider what the equivalent water and sunlight needs are. Are they receptive to the idea? How are we following up or checking on?
For our one to many presentations, we can accept that we’re broadly spreading an idea that won’t take hold everywhere. However, if we know the crop and the conditions, we can increase the odds of success. There’s a difference “throwing ideas at the wall to see what sticks” and seeding a properly prepared field for industrial farming. Effective presenters are well aware of the difference (ex. The next conference call we’re on vs. a TED talk).
Talk is cheap when it’s purposeless. Talk is rich when it’s sharing an idea that can turn into something more. A great seed on concrete doesn’t have a chance. A great seed in a sidewalk crack can make something work. A great seed and it’s closest cousins in a properly tilled field can yield a bumper crop. The same rules exist for ideas, we just have to follow them.