Updated: Jan 24
While I was working in my little radio production studio at my first radio job, I’d often get a knock at the door, after which our sales manager would wander in. “Got (insert name of client) coming in on Tuesday” he would say. “He’s paid to record his own voiceover for his ad”. “Oh no. Seriously?”
Look, I'll admit I was not that generous to our self-voicing clients. I was far too busy running a production department and hosting two three-hour radio shows a day for the voice coaching, encouraging, and 15 re-takes, that our poor clients would usually need before we got a good result. They were good at running businesses, not voicing radio ads, and I was far too stressed!
And yet, in the busyness of a fast-paced commercial radio studio, we got it done. Back then, I don't think I ever appreciated just how remarkable it is that we could get someone, from zero to confident, in under an hour. But after much trying, I gained a very particular set of skills: making someone into a radio presenter in under fifteen minutes.
Presenting a radio show, an ad, a podcast, or a video is a skill, like anything else, and whilst it's more than just waltzing up to a microphone and letting fly, it is possible for the average person to learn pretty quickly. So, thanks to some coaching techniques I finely honed at that radio station job, here’s some tips on how to sound good on a podcast!
Five tips for sounding great on your podcast:
1: Up the energy!
You’ve probably heard this one before, but even so, it bears repeating. The recording will suck all the energy out of your voice, in the same way that the TV camera adds 10 kilos (allegedly!). If you just speak normally, you'll sound bored and disinterested.
Instead? Speak with more energy to compensate. My trick for getting that energy in your voice? Surprised eyebrows! Open your eyes as wide as they'll go and put your eyebrows as high as you can. Pretend you're a Miss America pageant winner; you’ll feel the energy in your voice rising. Feels weird, sounds great.
If you’re not a ghost, it’s likely you already know how to breathe. But GOOD breathing really helps you get enough air behind your voice to get that enthusiastic sound on a recording like we just talked about. If you’re a singer, you’ll already know what I mean.
The key is to concentrate on getting a good breath in from your belly, not your chest. If you want to know what that feels like, lie on your back and watch your belly rise and fall with each breath. It's from here you want to suck in to inhale, and then compress to exhale. There’s plenty more to it than that, but that’s certainly a good start. If you want to know more, Mike DelGaudio at Booth Junkie has a good primer.
3: If you make a mistake, STOP!
If you're pre-recording, this is important for editing purposes. If you make a mistake, don’t panic. Just stop, pause, and start again from the beginning of that line. Then in the edit, you can go in and simply delete the mistake. It's much easier to edit out the mistakes if you have a nice clean gap of silence you can cut around. So stop, re-set, and when you're ready, go again.
It's much easier than doing delicate surgery to combine takes; or worse, doing a million takes trying to get the whole script correct in one go. Even if you didn’t make a mistake, why not pause a little longer between lines? You’ll give yourself time to re-set and think about what you’re going to say. You can always edit that out later to tighten it up (which you should- flow is important!)
4. Listen. To yourself, and to others.
Do you know who always surprised me with their speaking skills when I was working for the radio station? Country footy players. Even the ones from the really tiny country footy leagues.
Far from the stereotype of one-word yeah/nah answers, they were generally fantastic. My colleagues used to interview them after games and they always had perfect, well rounded answers. This staggered me. I was media-trained, and here were these part-time footy players and (mainly) full-time farmers acted like they'd been dealing with the media all their lives.
Until it hit me. Because they watch a lot of interviews!
It makes sense when you think about it: country footy players are also AFL footy fans. Not only do they know their topic inside-out, they also watch footy on TV and watch professional players give professional interviews. They listen to so many of those interviews on TV and on the radio, that they naturally know how an interview is meant to sound. All they have to do then is become a bit of a parrot: match the tone and copy some of the phrases (although we could probably drop "all credit to the boys") and boom! Polished, professional sounding interview. So do the same: find someone you want to sound like and copy their tone.
And further to that, listen back to your recordings. I know it's awful at first. There is not a soul working in any sort of audio medium that did not hate the sound of their own voice when they started (myself included). Now’s the time to get over it.
Like I said in writing for podcast, it’s time to check your ego at the door and actually listen. It’s where the most useful feedback is, and it's your best chance to improve! Don’t be too harsh on yourself, just try your best, listen back, learn, and try again. You’ll spot those annoying habits you never knew about before anyone else does!
And once you've listened to yourself, listen to others.
You are your own worst critic, by far. I've had clients apologise for stuff (having a cold, fumbling their lines, etc etc...) that I never even noticed on the first listen-through! If you follow point 3 (above), pretty much anything can be edited out seamlessly, which gives you a bit of a safety net and should give you a bit of confidence. If you're worried about something you've said, let's have a chat and see if we can take it out completely. But mostly, you'll find that you're worried about stuff that nobody else has noticed, or at the very least something that will have been forgotten three seconds later!
Need extra podcast presentation training?
Jet Streamer conducts podcast training in conjunction with The MAST, in Warragul, about an hour and fifteen minutes from Melbourne. Check their site to see if we've got something coming up, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to express your interest.