If you’ve listened to my Trafcom News Podcast, you’ve probably heard me say that I’m not a big fan of reading in a podcast, unless you’re deliberately sharing the passage of a book or article. However, in the real world, we know that podcast scripting is not uncommon. Just recently, I’ve had to coach a few people on how to record audio that didn’t sound stilted or silly. This is more difficult than it sounds.
Here are the tips I shared, based on my experience in scriptwriting, voiceover and podcasting over the years.
- Prepare. Do not read the script cold.
- Let’s assume that the script is well written, but still needs to be tweaked for the ear. Look for too-long passages, complex sentences, or phrases that can only be understood by the eye, not the ear. Revise them.
- Next, mark up the script. If you can, print it out double-spaced and grab a red or blue pen. Using whatever kind of marks you’re comfortable with, add the following accents to your script: pauses, emphasized words, slower pace, faster pace. (See the sample below.)
- Look up the pronunciation of any words you’re not sure of (for example, Ih-ROCK, not Eye-ROCK for Iraq) and write them out phonetically if you need to.
- Read your script – aloud. Don’t just mumble it. Say it. How do you feel when you read it?
- Slow down. Yes, I can almost guarantee that you’re reading too fast. Remember: we are listening to your words, not reading them.
- If you want to sound formal, go right ahead. If you want to sound conversational, be sure to pause occasionally and even make a mistake. Rare is the person who can speak for 10 minutes without an um, ah, you know or other misstep. Be human.
- If you’re not sure about how to approach a certain section, record more than one take. That’s the beauty of recorded audio; you can edit later. If you pause between takes, your edits will be easier to do.
This might sound like a lot of work, and it can be. But think about the end result: do you want to move your audience or do you want to bore them? Text that sounds like it’s being read is often dull and lifeless. If you take the time to revise and mark up your script and practice, practice, practice, you’ll end up with a better piece of audio.
Have you ever read a script for a podcast? Please share your own tips in the comments section below.
UPDATE: The Podcast Scripting Book is now available. Learn everything you need to know about this topic in one handy volume.