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Jon Beaupré is a voice and performance consultant for radio and television performers. Under the name Broadcast Voice, he provides private training and workshops for reporters, anchors, sports and weather casters, and others working in electronic and broadcast media. He teaches in the Broadcast Communications program at California State University at Los Angeles, and conducts workshops and seminars with the Associated Press Radio and Television Association. He has been a fixture on the convention circuit, teaching workshops at a wide range of specialty journalism and broadcast conventions and stations on both coasts of the U.S.

Dangling Conversation, Part II

December 24th, 2001

In the last installment, we talked a bit about the concept of sounding conversational, and we’re going to continue in that vein today.

Here is an exercise: take a piece of copy that you will read before an audience of, say, colleagues, classmates, or friends. Set up as a game, here is how you play: you begin reading the copy, but at some set point in the copy, you begin to ad lib, improvising on the story described in your copy. Your audience is supposed to “catch” you ad-libbing.

As soon as they catch you improvising, they raise their hand, and you stop improvising and pick up reading your copy where you left off, until you can safely begin ad-libbing again. The reader’s goal is to ad-lib as much and as far as possible, the audience’s goal is to determine when the ‘reporter’ is reading and when they are improvising. It’s a very hard game and few are really good at it!

After years of using this technique, here are the most important observations my students have gleaned from the exercise:

1. There are two ways to be successful at this game: either be a brilliant improviser, or read your copy like you are.

2. If you are a good improviser, you catch not only the sense of the story and where it is going, but also the tone, the mood, the style of the writing. Like I said, very few of us are really good at this, but clearly, the skill is learnable.

3. More likely, if you read your copy AS IF YOU WERE IMPROVISING, if you read in a spontaneous manner that makes it sound like you are hearing and thinking those thoughts for the very first time, you will undoubtedly be a better reader.

For most of us, this is by far the most fruitful way to read our copy. Listen to the way you improvise, the way you pause, hesitate and stumble. While we aren’t recommending that you read all your copy this way, there is something about the freshness, the genuine-ness of that kind of read that can make it very compelling. I have collected samples of this copy in my book “Broadcast Voice Exercises” which we use in a classroom setting, and while this was not supposed to be a shameless pitch to purchase a copy of the book, should you be interested, don’t hesitate to contact me.More on conversational speech next installment. Until then, Season’s Greetings, and keep breathing...