How To Get the Most Out Of Your Radio Voice
by Tracy Johnson
When’s the last time someone has asked you to say something in your ‘radio voice’? That’s one of the most cringe-worthy moments for any personality. It’s not a compliment.
You love being on the air, but you hate your voice, or feel insecure that your voice lacks the depth and richness that seems to come naturally to some personalities and voice talent. What do yo do? Can you change it? Probably not, but there are ways to get the most from your voice.
Many young personalities are lured to the sites that promise to develop your radio voice with a course or “secrets” to becoming the next king of voice-overs. Maybe it’ll work for you, but if you want to excel on the air as a great radio performer, ignore it.
Having a great voice doesn’t mean you’ll be a successful air talent any more than having great one-liners in a bar makes you a good stand-up comedian. I can’t count how many times I’ve had someone referred to me for an on-air position by parents, teachers or an advisor because “they have such a great speaking voice for the radio.” That may be true, but if you don’t know how to use it, the voice doesn’t matter.
Voice Is Less Important Than Character
Some of the world’s most successful air personalities lack what is normally thought of as a great radio voice. Howard Stern? Not a great radio voice. Ryan Seacrest’s voice is good, but it’s not that classic, big-sounding, authoritative presence typically associated with air talent.
And talk host Sean Hannity? His voice is high-pitched, a little whiny and could be irritating to some.
One of the best (and highly successful) air personalities I’ve worked with is Dave Smiley (WZPL/Indianapolis) and nobody would say he’s winning because of his voice!
As long as your voice is decent, it’s fine for the air. The most important point is to not try and force your voice to be something it isn’t. Be yourself, and maximize the character range in your personality. Everyone’s different and that’s a good thing.
Most importantly, don’t try to sound like radio announcer. It’ll cause you to inflect un-naturally and use words that don’t fit your normal vocabulary. The result: You’ll sound like an “announcer”, not a personality.
On the other hand, maybe you are gifted with a big, booming voice. That’s great. Now use it without falling in love with yourself. Often times, talent with great “pipes” love to hear themselves, so they turn up the headphones and revel in the richness of their brilliance. This usually causes their pace to slow to the point of being boring! If you have a great voice, congratulations! Now put some personality and character into it!
Relate, Don’t Announce
There’s something about the microphone light going on that causes air talent to suddenly change. They tighten up, their voice pitches up a bit, and they speak faster than normal.
These are natural tendencies, especially with inexperienced personalities or those that don’t yet command their personality. To overcome these anxious moments:
1) Sit up (or stand up) straight. Posture makes a big difference in your speaking ability.
2) Breathe. Just before opening the microphone, take a deep breath and let it completely out. This will cause your shoulders and diaphragm to relax.
3) Keep breathing. Many times, personalities take a deep breath and then rush through the segment without breathing, which results in running words and phrases together, talking to fast and limiting inflection. When you’re relaxed and continue to breathe, you’ll perform at a more steady pace, which is easier to listen to because it’s much more natural
4) Slow down. Pace and momentum has nothing to do with how quickly you talk, and everything to do with the words you choose to move a break forward. If you’re relaxed, it should be easy to speak more slowly, but always resist the urge to rush through a break.
Part of being a good radio personality is not so much worrying about what you sound like on air, if you’re voice is big enough or if you’re sounding
It’s really about how to connect with your audience, understanding what they’re interested in, and maximizing those God-given gifts to get the most from what you have.
Tracy Johnson specializes in radio talent coaching, radio consulting for programming and promotions and developing digital strategies for brands.