All the advice in the world won’t do you much good without practical ways of putting it to use. You’ve been told to sound conversational on the air and you know you have to take care of your voice. But how?
Voice coach Ann Utterback has a great collection of how-to tips on her new Web site. She calls them “15 second fixes” because that’s about all the time it takes to practice what she preaches. Here are just a few:
Tape record yourself talking on the phone to hear the natural volume and projection of your voice. Record yourself reading some copy… Compare the two. See if you can bring a natural, conversational voice into your on-air work.
That’s great advice, and I’d add one more suggestion. This may sound wacky, but try recording your narration while actually holding a phone to your ear. When I worked at CNN, the tracking booth was down the hall and around the corner from the edit rooms. You had to call the editor on the phone to make sure tape was rolling (yes, it was tape back then). Anyway, I found that talking into the phone and mic at the same time seemed to help me sound more conversational.
Here’s another tip from Ann–warm up your vocal muscles before you record. It’s just as important as stretching before running, she says.
Repeat these phrases ten times each before you voice to warm up your articulators. Be sure to explode the /t/ /d/ and /p/ /b/ ending consonants. “Put a cup.” “Fat lazy cat.” “Hot and cold.”
Go on, try it. Go hide somewhere if you have to. Nobody has to know.
Now about taking care of your voice: I’ve already written about the hazards of smoking but that’s not the only behavior that can damage your voice. Screaming at concerts or sports events is obviously harmful, but so are coughing and clearing your throat. Ann’s advice?
When you feel the urge to clear your throat, take a few sips of water. Also try to cough silently, using your abdominal muscles as if producing an H sound. Humming gently and softly can work as well to help avoid throat clearing or coughing.
Keep up with Ann’s 15-second fixes by subscribing to her email list. Just send her a note and she’ll put you on it.