I recently received this question from a student (actually three questions):
Is your podcast voice your “normal” speaking voice, or are you painfully aware of the sound of your own voice while you are recording? Do you consciously “work” the whole time you are recording to animate your voice to sound as appealing as it does? Have you ever taken voice lessons?
These are smart questions, and not easy to answer. Why? Because a lot of what a podcaster does while recording is intuitive. I’m curious to hear what my fellow podcasters would say about this. Here are my answers:
This is my normal voice
My podcast voice is my normal voice, only better. In other words, I am more conscious of my voice and diction when I’m podcasting, because I want people to listen and to feel the tone of the message I’m trying to convey. I don’t want them to be distracted by poor pronunciation, breath sounds or coughs. I would make the same effort when doing a speech or presentation or teaching a class. I believe listeners appreciate a podcaster who doesn’t slur words or rush as if the studio’s on fire. (By, the way, I have worked at erasing most of my New York accent. I wrote about it here.)
If I have a cold, or if I’m tired, or if I’m at a conference and have already recorded 12 podcasts in a day, my voice will not be in top shape and I can hear the difference. Can listeners tell? I’m not sure. If the content is important, I hope they won’t care too much about a scratchy throat. Once I had to re-record a voiceover for a corporate podcasting client because my head cold was so bad; we just could not publish the audio file as it was.
Talk with your hands!
As for animation, yes, I am conscious of being animated. Over the years I’ve developed a few tricks. First, stand up if you can while recording. This will impart more energy to your voice. And don’t be afraid to use hand gestures while you’re talking. Even though no one can see you, your gesticulations will convey life into your words. Try it.
Yes to voiceover lessons
I have taken voiceover lessons, which were very helpful to build my confidence before I started podcasting. A good vocal coach can help you to identify the strengths and weaknesses in your vocal presentation. Over the years a few novice corporate podcasters have asked me to help them improve their delivery. Adding animation to their voices is usually task No. 1. I often suggest that they slow down too.