The Dangling Conversation...
December 17th, 2001
One of the most frequently heard directives from news directors
or producers is that they want their reporters and anchors
to sound conversational. This has always made
me just a little bit crazy, since I am just as conversational
when I am bored and tired as when Im yelling at the
cable company to fix my reception. Its all conversational.
The problem with the idea of conversational is that it isnt
very exact. Over the years, when you discuss the issue with
those same news directors and producers, what comes out is
that they want somehow for the words coming out of the mouth
of their reporters and anchors to sound as if they were their
own words and thoughts, and most specifically not sound like
they are being read.
For those of us who study performance theory, the concept
is described more like there is an emotional connection
between the words being spoken and the person speaking them.
Maybe a better term, more descriptive in its vagueness would
be that the reporter or anchor should sound natural.
Now the weird thing about this is that what we have to do
is work very hard to recreate under the most stressful and
artificial conditions imaginable something that we do everyday
instinctively. The very process of being self conscious affects
the performance, usually for the worse.
This concept of being natural, or conversational is tantalizing,
since it appears so easy for someone who is good at it, and
yet the moment you become self aware, your performance can
quickly sound stilted and artificial. Its like thinking
about not thinking about how you talk. How do you do this?
In the next couple of installments, well look at some
exercises that make this conversational quality a bit easier
to understand and much easier to use.
In the meantime, keep breathing!