Whether you listen to Common Sense with Dan Carlin, PBS NewsHour, or The New Yorker to get your podcast news fix you’re aware of the big difference in how the presenters communicate their message; not just in the language they use but also their tone of voice. Tone can convey a thousand things to a listener and is key in getting what you want to say across correctly, how you use it will affect everything from how you’re interpreted as a person to the sincerity of the message you’re broadcasting. The Guardian says tone will “affect how we’re seen in terms of our personality, our emotional state, and even our professional competence”. Let’s take a look at some of the different podcast genres out there and see how you can use tone to create impact for yours!
Generally speaking, if you’re reporting news a more ‘formal’ tone of voice is required. You need to sound authoritative and speaking with a lower pitch will help audience members feel confident in your credibility. Speak clearly and enunciate well, putting emphasis on the key facts such as locations and timings of events – there’s no room for misunderstandings with the news. However, you need to find that sweet spot where you aren’t over-enunciating as you could come across as patronizing! Last but not least you must always sound objective, keep a steady tone and try not to put emphasis on words which could imply personal opinion.
At the other end of the spectrum, if you’re planning on sharing intimate details with your audience you need to take on a completely different voice persona, being as natural as possible. Talking about personal matters such as: marital problems, relationships and sexuality need to sound unrehearsed and honest. Imagine you are talking to a friend one-on-one, emphasize words you normally would and add inflection at the end of a phrase, making your speech sound question-like will invite listeners in.
To have a voice which makes listeners feel in safe hands you need to sound genuine and warm. Your aim is to communicate with a soothing tone which creates a bubble of trust between you and your audience – opening up the opportunity for sharing. Low frequency, continuous sounds are seen as comforting and Jennifer Pardo, says “in general people who speak a little slower tend to be perceived as more friendly” – marrying these two elements will help you be accepted as a trusted source by your listeners.
‘Agony aunt’ Dan Savage’s hit podcast, Savage Lovecast gives food for thought on how to master a comforting voice, his recent episode on will idea of what to work towards. To achieve it, imagine how a therapist might communicate with their patient – speak slowly in a stable low tone, inviting listeners into a safe virtual environment.
Informative / Educational
Reliability and credibility are the key character traits you want to convey when presenting an educational or informative podcast. To hit the nail on the head, speak with conviction, have a steady tone, communicate clearly and with confidence and don’t add go up in pitch at the end of your sentences – it will sound like you doubt what you’re saying!
Try listening to Flash Forward discussing climate change to get some inspiration on how to use your voice. Sounding like a trusted source means pacing yourself, speaking too quickly and you come off sounding nervous and unsure, and add pauses here and there to add weight to what you’re saying.
The key to great storytelling? “Communicating your humanity” according to the Huffingtonpost.com. Be as human as possible, allow your audience to connect with what you’re saying and this will captivate them and compel them into wanting more. Be playful in where you place emphasis on words, storytelling can also allow you to have fun and take on various voices to convey different characters. Chasing Ghosts is a perfect example of the sort of engaging true-crime storytelling which has taken the world by storm of late – listen and get creative!
This American Life’s presenter Ira Glass shares his trick for gripping storytelling, “Any story hits you harder if the person delivering it doesn’t sound like a news robot but, in fact, sounds like a real person having the reactions a real person would”.
The overriding tip? Be as natural as possible with how you use your tone of voice, it is how a listener will engage with you as a presenter and ultimately connect with the message and TheBalance.com confirms this “on-air media superstars are those with the natural ability to communicate”.