Sounding natural is hard work.
“You’re never just reading words, you’re communicating a message,” says George Bodarky of WFUV public radio in New York City. The key is to sound like yourself, not a robotic announcer-person like the fictional Ted Baxter on the Mary Tyler Moore Show.
Bodarky and Naomi Starobin of WHYY public media in Philadelphia shared these tips on how to improve your delivery at the 2019 Excellence in Journalism conference.
- Keep at least one hand free. When your hands are restricted, it restricts you. Most of us gesture when we talk; doing that when delivering a script makes it sound more natural.
- Don’t drink a sugary beverage before you go on the air. “That will make you salivate and we don’t want to hear your spit,” Starobin said.
- Breathe with your diaphragm. Singers know this: When you take a breath, your shoulders should not move. Learn to breathe correctly by lying flat on the floor and putting a book on your stomach.
- Be completely interested in what you are saying. “The only thing that matters is what you are talking about, the meaning behind it,” Bodarky said.
- Picture yourself in the scene. Play the soundbites as you record narration.
Starobin and Bodarky also ran some participants in their session through simple exercises designed to help with specific issues.
Does your delivery sound flat? Try laughing your way through the copy and then try again.
Do you read too fast? Put on a drawl and read the copy as slowly as you can. Now, try again.
At the workshop, the improvement from the first to the second read-through was remarkable. The exercises made a noticeable difference.
Deborah Potter is an experienced journalism trainer and reporter who spent 16 years as a network correspondent at CBS News and CNN. She is co-author of “Advancing the Story: Quality Journalism in a Digital World,” now in its fourth edition. She writes regularly about journalism on the Advancing the Story website. For almost 20 years, Deborah ran NewsLab, the journalism site she founded in 1998, which is now part of the University of Mississippi. Deborah leads workshops for journalists in newsrooms across the United States and around the world on writing, social media, digital journalism and ethics.