Your Voice, Your Personal Brand and Your Podcast

This article with voice training and authenticity tips for podcasters was inspired by an invitation by the awesome guys at the Podcasters’ Emporium Podcast for me to come back and speak some more about making the best use of your voice when podcasting. The Podcasters’ Emporium is a podcast for podcasters about creating great podcasts. It’s a great resource!

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Introduction

These notes and references support my first Working With Voice, Part 1 podcast interview recorded back in May 2009, and the second Working With Voice, Part 2 podcast interview recorded in January 2010.

I run a consulting, speaking and coaching business advising – amongst other things on Vocal Branding. Vocal Branding is the strategic and purposeful use of voice to create products, brands and experiences that sound as compelling as they look and feel.

I record a brief, occasional podcast called The CoffeeCast where I conduct impromptu interviews and capture interesting Conversations.

No matter whether you podcast as an individual, as the representative of an organisation, for a company, or indeed in any other capacity –

Your Voice Is Your Brand!

By this I mean that – whether intentionally or unintentionally – every single time you speak on your podcast, you are creating, adding to and shaping your personal brand.

I believe that any time we are expressing and affecting our brand, that it is crucial that we be conscious about what we are doing. That is why I have created these extensive notes on voice and podcasting, and why I was so excited to be invited as a guest on the Podcasters’ Emporium podcast. I have done my best to share my thoughts and offer some other great references on how you can use your voice to positively strengthen and sculpt both your personal and your professional brand every time you speak.

My hope is that your personal vocal brand (your brand voice) will be expressed exactly as you wish it to be. No matter where you are in your voice journey, there are always opportunities to develop your voice further, to bring it more in line with your dreams and aspirations.

I am available via Skype/FaceTime to work with you or your organisation to ensure you are getting the most from your voice and from your podcasts.

Vocally yours
Tim Noonan

Background Planning Notes by Tim Noonan for Podcasters’ Emporium shows

What is a Great Podcasting Voice?

Your Podcasting voice should be your true ‘essential’ voice! Your Authentic Voice!

Voice Researcher, Dr. Lillian Glass, found that people with attractive voices are perceived as being more visually attractive than people with nasal or less attractive voices, independent of their actual looks.

  1. Who are You???
  2. What is Your true natural sound and voice???
  3. What distinguishes you from others, and how is this reflected in your voice???

The ideal podcasting voice is the open Expressive Voice vs the shaped, performance Announcing Voice of radio and media. It has the following properties:

  • Naturalness, Realness, Open,
  • Authentic, Considered, Personable (not over-produced).
  • Expressive and containing emotional richness.

Your Voice should reflect and support the generalization that:

Podcasting is generally about sharing and serving, rather than classic broadcasting channels which tend to focus on shaping attitudes and selling.

Podcaster’s motives can therefore usually be clear and more transparent.

As a podcaster I think you want to work towards being natural, enthusiastic, competent and direct. – Tony Kahn

In their PDF article titled Delivery for the New Media, electronic journalism lecturer Dave Cupp, M.A. & broadcast voice expert Ann S. Utterback, Ph.D. note

Much has been written about the new and varied media platforms journalists are now asked to master, but one area that has not been explored is what delivery style works best on these new devices. This question is an important one because history shows us that new media platforms have triggered profound change in television news including delivery styles.

They go on to say …

“Three words to keep in mind in describing the most effective delivery for the Internet are casual, comfortable and connected.”

Voice is All About Relationship

My blog post titled Voice Is All About Relationship asserts that whenever we speak our voice ‘tells’ our listeners about

  1. The relationship we hold with ourself;
  2. The relationship we hold with our content; and
  3. The relationship we hold with our audience.

What is your relationship with your own voice? Love it, Hate it, Somewhere between?

If you don’t like your voice, you better start working on that relationship before doing too much podcasting, otherwise, to the listener, it would sound like you don’t like YOU!

Your Voice Expresses You, it is a Reporter of Who You Are

  • Particularly In a podcast, your voice is You (from the perspective of your listeners, at any rate)!

  • Your voice expresses your Personality, your Identity. Per Sona actually means “Through Sound”.

  • Your content is judged on the facts. Your identity and character on your voice.

  • When we speak our voice expresses a representation of our vocal psychology, and if we like the voices we are working with, this suggests we have compatible psychologies that interact well.

Five Desirable Qualities of an Authentic Voice

My Blog post explains these five desirable qualities of a Vocally Conscious (authentic) Voice. If you start applying some or all of these techniques, you will be more effective as a communicator, more interesting to engage with, and your likability factor will almost certainly increase.

  • V – Vibrant
  • O – Open
  • I – Intentional
  • C – Conversational
  • E – Emotionally Expressive

You can hear me speak briefly about these qualities here

Trust, Giving and Vocal Generosity

  • The true currency of podcasting is trust, and the human voice is the instrument we use to create and build it.

  • In podcasting: sincerity, honesty, even failures will trump cleverness and professional polish – every time!

  • Vocally share your smile, your passion and your spirit with listeners!

I believe that our biggest gift to our listeners as podcasters, above and beyond the words and the ideas of blogging, is the expression of our passion, joy and enthusiasm for our subject, expressed through our voice. Podcasting allows us to demonstrate our authenticity and integrity by expressing both our thoughts and our feelings around those thoughts as we speak.

Some Vocal Techniques for Podcasting

Vocal Warm-up and Breathing

The objectives of voice warm-up are similar to a gym warm-up, to limber us up for the task ahead.

Before you begin recording, you should try to do as many of the following as possible:

  1. Get air in your lungs;
  2. Get oxygen to your brain;
  3. Determine if you want to ‘tone down’ or ‘hype up’ your energetic state;
  4. Set an intention (what you want to achieve);
  5. Think of someone you deeply care about;
  6. Imagine you are Speaking (having a kind of conversation) with one special person hundreds of times, not just speaking out to a few hundred general listeners together.

Ann Utterback’s excellent Online Voice Coaching Blog has a variety of quality posts about breathing, vocal warm-up and other podcast-relevant pointers.

Listen to Ann Utterback as she takes you through some great breathing, stretching and vocal warm-up activities

Co-Hosts and Interviewees

  • We each have our own unique conversational and speaking style

  • Most of us assume or make judgments about another’s style, and they conversely do the same about us. As an example, interruptions and interjections are demonstrations of engagement and interest for some folks, while they demonstrate rudeness or signs of disinterest for others.

  • Understanding and echoing or mirroring aspects of your co-hosts or interviewee’s style enhances flow and likability.

  • Match your breathing (slow it down with your co-host or interviewee)

  • Practice Non-visual Turn-Taking suggestions “Isn’t that right James?” so its always clear who has the mic.

  • Use less filler words, more pauses and spaces!

State Management

Professionals in all speaking industries always make the effort to get themselves into a good mental and emotional state before performing or recording.

  • Making different non-word (extended vowel) voice sounds is a great way to change your state.

  • Listening (and singing along to) music that gets you in the right state is also very effective.

  • Listen to a recording of someone with a voice that reflects the state you want, or someone having a genuine laugh.

  • Listen to a prior recording where you felt great.

  • Think of someone you really care for!

Listeners will entrain to (resonate with) your level of excitement, stress, intensity and anxiety. • They also will resonate with your warmth, openness, confidence, respectfulness, compassion, vulnerability and passion.

For more Power and Punch use good, hard, simple words with good, hard, clear meanings. . – Peggy Noonan from her book ‘Simple Speaking’.
  • Where possible, and in keeping with your personal style when off-mic, use gestures which will punctuate and energise your speech. If you are normally a gesturer, but are wooden in front of the mic, your delivery will feel (and sound) hollow.

  • Though studio energy may be quite fast, zingy and exciting, remember that you don’t know the state and rate of the listener. It may be quite laid back. If you want to change the energetic state of the audience, be sure to start close to where you think they are, and then lead them to the state you want.

Conversational Tone and Approaches

Communications scholar James McCroskey notes:

Effective delivery rests on the same natural foundations as everyday conversation. It doesn’t call attention to Itself.

More pointers on conversational approach are in my Five Desirable Qualities of an Authentic Voice.

  • Have a one-to-one conversation with each listener.

  • Use ‘You” rather than “our listeners” Your listeners are participants, not observers.

  • Ask rhetorical questions often, turn statements in to questions “Have you ever thought about …”, “how many times …” etc. This brings the listener back to you and the present moment.

  • Do you have an “I problem”? check your “I” “You” ratio

  • Is a microphone breaking line-of-sight between you and interviewee? Is it creating a barrier? Consider alternative micing that frees up head and body to move i.e. the ‘Hat Mike’ as described by Tony Kahn of the Morning Stories Podcast.

Edit Gently

  • Don’t be too ‘enthusiastic’ in the editing. Aggressive elimination of breaths, small gaps and silences, can remove the realness and naturalness from the recording.

  • Spaces, pauses and breaths can also give import to key information and ideas.

  • Keep some natural vocal (non-alphabetic) sounds – sighs, aha, mmmmm etc These are our substitute for the lack of observable body language available to your listeners.

Getting Even Better

Listen to your podcast with eyes closed – more info in my EBook. Listen with PC speakers, but mostly with headphones!

  1. How do you “feel” when you hear the recording?

  2. What things surprise you positively?

  3. What makes you uncomfortable? Sit with the discomfort…Explore it.

  4. Listen with a close friend or your Co-Host! Explore feelings

Podcasting is a New spoken Communication Paradigm

My primary interest in voice is in everyday speaking, and observing how our use of voice is changing. My voice work usually looks (listens) from present forward, and largely leaves re-creation of the past to other classical voice specialists.

I think that podcasting is leading the way by how people who podcast use their voices to contribute and to build trust and connection. Podcasting is demonstrating our desire to be more real, more open and more natural, it isn’t coming out of the past, it is present and looking forward.

Podcasting straddles all of the four key classic modes of spoken communication:

  1. Dyadic -two speakers (co-host, interview, host and single listener)
  2. Small Group (panel or intimate presentation style)
  3. Mass Media (it is a kind of broadcast)
  4. Public/Professional Speaking (a bigger virtual audience).

(In all cases, there is a back channel either real-time or after posting.)

The core values behind podcasting contrast sharply with those of classic broadcasting, journalism and even documentary-making.

As podcasters we have a huge opportunity to contribute to and strongly influence the next generation of spoken communication in society.

Podcasting is a reinterpretation of the ancient oral traditions of information sharing, story telling and connection.

Podcast listeners also often start to associate a degree of ritual around their listening, to complement other activities, or to connect with people of like mind.

Voices and Dress Codes

I think about the way people use (or think they should use) their voice somewhat like dress codes.

We can dress formally, projecting an image, or we can dress casually, showing the world the real us.

We dress up to give an impression, and we speak up to make an impression.

Note the distinction between trying to make an Impression on someone else, vs actually Expressing who we are, for another to interpret or experience.

Often we are told how to dress, or we are told how to speak – this reminds us of how – all too often – the voice is a tool of control and will-power, instead of being used as an instrument of expression.

As podcasters, we are actually in a trusted position to influence others through the use of our voice. In effect we speak in to our listeners, unless they stop the podcast, our messages (conscious and unconscious) are making their way into the listener’s own inner world. We are granted an honoured position of trust.

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And, just as we can dress comfortably, we can also speak comfortably. This shares our state and energy with our listener, perhaps allowing them to dissolve some personal stress and frustration, just by hearing our relaxed comfortable delivery.

Actually, there is a voice specialist, Arthur Samuel Joseph who has found that the recordings of speakers naked are more pleasant to the ear, more real and expressive, than those from the same person when clothed. So if you aren’t using video, or podcast alone, you may wish to share your most open voice to your listeners 😉

There is incredible power in the vulnerability of speaking – unguarded and un-cloaked.

Tip: Never wear a tie or have your top button done up when podcasting, it restricts breathing, and vocal expression. Always encourage your guests to loosen clothing around the throat area as well!

Some Voice and Podcasting Resources

Tim’s eBook

Request your complimentary copy of Tim’s E-Book.

“Your Voice is Your Business: Tim’s Top Voice Strategies for Vocal Brilliance”

Available for request at tim@timnoonan.com.au

Tim’s Voice Newsletter

Subscribe to Tim’s occasional Vocal Essence Newsletter.

Developing your Voice and Your Podcast Style

There is a fantastic presentation by Tony Kahn on Voice and Developing your Podcasting Style. Tony has been host of the Morning Stories podcast for several years. The new home for Morning Stories is at Tony’s personal website, http://www.tonykahn.com

Tony has been working in radio for many decades, and really knows Voice. He also understands how podcasting differs significantly from classical radio, and explains this transition brilliantly in his Voice and Developing your Podcasting Style presentation. You can download this video presentation by Tony here.

Online Voice Coaching and Podcasting Blog

Improving your voice makes your podcasts more credible and effective. Simple, small changes can give you a voice that attracts more listeners.

Ann S. Utterback’s excellent Online Voice Coaching Blog has a variety of quality posts about breathing, vocal warm-up and other podcast-relevant pointers.

Podcast Voice Training

Some very informative Voice and Public Speaking podcasts by public speaking coaches, Jan Janzen and Scott Paton

Improve your Podcasts with tips and tricks from expert public speaking coaches, Jan Janzen and Scott Paton.

Unfortunately, these Podcast Voice Training files can be difficult to download at times due to Podomatic’s bandwidth limits.

Some Points for Conducting Podcast Interviews

This article on interviewing contains some good pointers for keeping to topic and following up on unexpected or interesting answers.

Some great podcast interviewing advice can also be found in Ann S. Utterback’s Polish Your Interviewing Voice blog article.

Sound and Voice Recording Tips

Article By David Battino with practical Pointers on voice and recording. It also links to other interesting podcast-related posts.

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