The Dangling Conversation Part III
One of the interesting things about sounding conversational
on the air is that there is absolutely nothing natural about
it. Actually, what you have to do is work very, very hard
to sound relaxed, a contradiction in terms if ever there was
one. How often do you sit across from a total stranger in
a bar, look intently at them and say, without flinching, Al
Qaeda troops retreated from the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan
today, marching toward the Pakistani border... Its
even worse when you are on camera. You have lights on you,
production personnel around you, cameras, audio equipment,
microphones - the whole setup is anything but natural.
So we have to take this term conversational with
a few explanations.
Dont let the term conversational scare
you. Often news directors and producers will use the term
because they cant think of another term to describe
what they would like their reporters and anchors to sound
like. In my experience, when pressed further, they generally
mean that they dont want their reporter to sound like
they are reading, and they dont want them to sound like
they are in an artificial setting (which they are anyway!).
What this means is that we have to perform a subtle illusion:
with thousands of dollars of equipment waiting on us, dozens
of staff and technicians depending on you to perform as planned,
and thousand of viewers or listeners waiting to hear what
you have to say - you have to sound unperturbed, knowledgeable
about your story, and able to talk with an anchor on occasion.
In short, we have to behave in the most natural-sounding
way possible under extraordinary pressure. Its not impossible,
but it does take some concentration.
Here are some hints:
1. The more you focus on the details of your story, the less
attention you can give to your own anxiety. If you concentrate
on the details of your story, you dont really have time
or brain power to be anxious or worried about your performance.
2. Dont set out to sound like anything at all. How
you sound will be THE RESULT of what you are thinking not
the cause. This may sound paradoxical coming from a voice
coach, but its true. The best performers dont
set out to sound like anything at all, they just set out to
do what they have to do with complete conviction and pleasure.
How they sound is the result of that motivation.
3. With the first syllable of the first word of your story
to come out of your mouth, claim your space. That first sound
is not only your audiences introduction to your story,
it is their introduction to you as a person, and just like
the lion waking in the morning, when she makes her first growling
yawn, its not only to wake up and stretch, its
to warn all the other animals within range that she is there.
You should do the same thing. With your first sounds, claim
the space you need to tell your story.
4. If you begin to think of timidity as selfish, you will
go a long way to open up. If you see your own timidity as
a fear of exposing yourself, your eccentricities and oddness,
you will remain tight, closed, and inaccessible. If you dont
really care too much what people think of how you sound, you
will probably do fine.
Finally, this week, it is my hope that whatever your faith,
whatever your spiritual tradition, that this holiday season
find you filled with joy, surrounded by people you love, and
constantly engaged in good conversation.