There comes a time in every career when you have to stop being a polished reader of words or some sort of veneer, and just become yourself. That “self” may be a somewhat invented persona like Larry David’s on “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” or it may as revealing of who you really are as possible, given the format.
But you need voice acting chops to accomplish this. Here’s a three-word exercise that’ll help you both on the air and in commercial voiceover work:
In my travels I’ve found almost all discussions about programming revolve around things close to us; the music and deejays, the promotions and contests, the clocks and service elements. While these elements are important to the station’s design, they are not transformative.
Because those things are all about us. And the closer things are to us the more important they seem. To us.
You hear this every day, if you listen long enough: The same stories, with almost, or nearly almost the exact same wording every newscast. This is a quick way to not stand out at all.
One of radio’s greatest pioneers, Gordon McLendon, even though he primarily did Top 40 (which he and Kansas City’s Todd Storz INVENTED), was known for hiring and training incredibly talented News staffs. I had the great pleasure of working with two of them, at KNUS in Dallas (which helped change the landscape of FM radio in the early seventies) and KILT, longtime Top 40 giant in Houston.
Both news staffs were incredible – chock full of amazing writers with riveting deliveries, every bit as much “personalities” as the disc jockeys were. And each of them learned on Day One the McLendon Rule: Rewrite every story for every newscast.
So, let’s pretend you have a radio station.
And that radio station has a ratings challenge, a fundraising challenge, or a challenge in developing loyal listeners.
Where do you begin in solving your problem?
A morning show host I work with recently found cause to read a poem on the air. While he meant well, it really stalled out the momentum of the show, and basically just sounded less personal. Here’s the right technique to use:
Paraphrase it, using your own words to frame the subject, then only directly quote a very SHORT quote or passage from whatever it is you’re bringing to the table – whether it’s a poem, like in this case, or an article about something.
We’ve all thought it. Sometimes we even laugh about it when we see an old photo. The hair. The clothes. The car. The things we thought were important. Back then.
Consider what your perspective would be today if you had spent your career exclusively at your very first radio station. You would not have the influences of the greatest mentors in your career, and you wouldn’t have the big picture perspective learned from seeing many different stations and perhaps many different formats.
Here’s something I know now that I didn’t know then;
On Friday, October 13th 2017, Leta Hopwood passed away two months to the day after her 92nd birthday.
Hopwood was her maiden name. She was my mother. She taught me to read when I was three years old. (By the time I entered 1st grade, I was reading at 7th grade level.)
She taught me to sing harmony when I was nine, as we drove from Shreveport, Louisiana to Colorado Springs after my dad was drafted into the Army. (I later sang in a very popular band, and have sung on dozens of jingles that you might have heard.)
On last week’s finger lickin’ Frost Advisory I pontificated how it’s tempting to think that what we do defines who we are. The carpenter is defined by his hammer; the accountant by his calculator, the radio station by its 40 minute music sweeps, and the semi-professional public address announcer by his ever so manly voice.
Simon Sinek suggests…
“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it, and what you do serves as tangible proof of why you do it.”
Counter-intuitive perhaps, but let’s dig deeper.
Millennial Overspeak is a new dialect. Not every single person in that age group uses it, of course, but it’s an easy (albeit cheap shot) reference for unnecessary glitz, so it’s become a hard-and-fast impression.
Phrases such as “I’m SO going to do that,” or describing something as “Unbelievably, spectacularly good” is overkill. And like everything served up too often, you actually LOSE impact. So the words you’re choosing to make something “bigger” or more “dramatic” usually just make whatever you’re talking about come across as pompous, overstated, or simply trying too hard. These are qualities that push the listener away, rather than bring him or her closer to you.
Let’s try to make our words count. “He was dead” doesn’t need an adverb or adjective. “He was SO dead” doesn’t make it more expressive; it just makes you sound like you have to expand everything in order to feel important. Eww.
It’s tempting, isn’t it?
It’s tempting to think that what we do defines who we are. The carpenter is defined by his hammer; the accountant by his calculator, the radio station by its 40 minute music sweeps.
We’re eager to define ourselves by a hallway full of gold records and awards. I hate to break it to you, but your listeners don’t care.