Part of the series of answers to students’ podcasting questions. For more about this series, read this post.
Question from Austin W.: When reading a script for a podcast, or any sort of recording for that matter, I tend to sound like I’m doing exactly that – reading off a piece of paper. This probably has to do with the fact that I am not a very good voice actor. What are some tips or tricks you do for adding emotion to your voice while reading a script to make it sound more interesting?
Answer: Most people don’t realize that there truly is an art to voice acting. When I studied voiceover years ago, some of my friends chuckled at the idea of my “practising” reading. Then I encouraged them to try it themselves, and they stopped laughing. It’s not easy.
As you know, I don’t recommend routinely scripting all your podcasts, but there are times that we need to do this, whether we script lightly or fully. In some previous posts, I have outlined some of my methods for reading a script naturally:
- How to write a podcast script (blog post)
- How to read a podcast script and not sound like you’re reading (blog post)
- Faking it: How to read a podcast script and sound natural (audio)
Preparation is the key
You’ll notice that all these techniques can be boiled down to one word: preparation. If you’re scripting, you need to first ensure that your script is written for the ear, not the eye. Keep in mind that your listeners don’t have visual cues in front of them, so try to use devices such as numbered lists: “Let’s talk about the three ways to…”
Use the active voice when never possible and keep sentences short. Be sure to add transitions between your points, and a recap at the end, using your numbered list as a structure.
After you’ve drafted the script, you next have to practise, practise, practise. I begin by marking up the script so that when I read it, I remember where to pause, emphasize, slow down, speed up etc.
I would add this tip: I have heard of some voice actors pinning a photo of a friend near the microphone. The voice actor then pretends to be speaking to the friend, not just to the mike. This might work for you.
UPDATE: The Podcast Scripting Book is now available. Read all about this topic in one handy book.