micDoing a live shot, reading a script on radio or delivering a newscast on Television requires not just good reporting and writing, but also a smooth, well-modulated voice.  Otherwise, listeners and viewers will focus on our verbal idiosyncrasies and not the story.

In broadcasting today in the United States, regional accents practically have disappeared, replaced by consistent, middle-America pronunciations.  The thinking is that regional variations in speech might cause some viewers to pay more attention to how the words are being said than to what is said.

At first, most reporters are nervous about speaking o camera and having their voices recorded.

Only the most supremely egotistical listen to their first broadcast and say, “Hey, I’m really god!”  The rest of us – normal people – fret and stew that our voices sound terrible an dwe look even worse.

It’s a two-step process to overcome that feeling.  The first is to learn techniques that facilitate good delivery.  The second is to become comfortable with your voice, your mannerisms, yourself.

Finding a broadcast voice that is you is harder than it may seem.  Many beginning broadcasters stumble into a delivery pattern characterized by rhythmic rising and falling, punched-up words and rising inflection at the end of most sentences.  It sounds artificial – and it is.

Other broadcast journalist adopt a near-theatrical delivery, which brings undue attention to them and detracts from the story, which is where we want our viewers and listeners to be focusing.

Remember that you are a storyteller.  Tell your story in a natural cadence with emphasis where it would be if you were telling the story to a group around the campfire, or whatever setting you envision.

“We all know how to tell a good story to a friend,” says broadcast coach Ann S. Utterback.  “We might raise our pitch when we want to stress a word, and we might stretch some words out and say others faster.  We do this naturally because of the feedback we get from our friend when we are talking.  Creating a person to talk with helps these same qualities become part of broadcast delivery.”

Tips to develop your own broadcast voice:

  • Speak at a comfortable pace but a little faster than perhaps you might normally.  That will help give your delivery a little extra energy.
  • Relax and concentrate on precise enunciation.
  • Find your optimum tone by humming until you hear the best resonance.
  • Be genuinely interested in what you are talking about.  Viewers and listeners will know immediately if you are merely going through the motions.
  • Make your movements deliberate and natural.
  • Correct your mistakes quickly and smoothly.  That will be the most natural to your audience.  Avoid scrunching your face, sighing, giggling or losing your composure in any way.
  • Pause between elements of your story or between stories.  This will clearly signal your audience that you are changing topics.

Jeff Rowe has been a journalist since 1975, reporting and producing news for television, radio, newspapers, magazines and online publications.  He’s been a broadcast writer for The Wall Street Journal, and broadcast editor for The Orange County Register. He teaches broadcast news writing at  California State University Fullerton.