We don’t often put a lot of thought into speaking, but the growth of audio content has made us more aware of our voices. A poor presenting voice can be distracting, whilst a good presenter brings content to life and lifts it off the page.
As someone who does public speaking, and is planning an entry into podcasting, vocal skills are becoming more and more important to me. So it was with great pleasure that I caught the excellent BBC Academy Podcast with voice and presentation coach Elspeth Morrison.
The podcast focuses on recording intros or links to a clip, which entails reading from a pre-prepared script. So how can you sound more natural? Through a mixture of planning and delivery:
- Write like you talk. It’s easy to write over-academically, with long words. When you then read it out, it sounds formal and stilted. So make your script sound natural.
- Marking up. Read through the script and mark where you want to convey particular feelings or inflections. But do more than just underline – put in smiley faces, or draw on inflections.
- Find your idiom; a way of speaking that feels natural to you. There’s no “right way” to talk. Work to your strengths and be a broadcast version of yourself, rather than trying to be someone else.
- Go off-script in conversations by actively listening and following up with questions.
- Use “Surfing Words” such as “but” or “so” to help things flow, and get you from A to B.
- Vary your tone and rhythm. You might have a lovely voice, and create a beautiful cadence, but if you repeat that in every sentence it becomes monotonous.
- Breathe. When speaking, we breathe through our mouth, so take a large, silent breath before you start to relax yourself and fill your lungs.
- Relax. Especially your shoulders and jaw. Tense shoulders make you sound high-pitched. And a tense jaw makes you sound nasal.
- Slow down. Take your time and sell what you’re saying – don’t rush to get through it.
- Smile. It brightens the tone and adds treble to your voice.
- Read two or three words ahead of what you’re saying, so you’re not surprised by a word.
Remember, there’s no “perfect” way to present. It’s a matter of personal tweaks from where you are starting from.
To listen to the original BBC Academy Podcast follow this link.