“God, I hate the sound of my own voice”.
I’m sure you wouldn’t be surprised that I hear that often. “Oh, I’d never do a podcast because my voice sounds like nails on a chalkboard/ a slowly deflating balloon/a cat being trodden on while playing the harmonica.” But I reckon you’d be surprised WHO says it…
Professional radio announcers.
I have had people who make their living from being on the radio say they hate the sound of their own voice.
How do I know? Well, I used to be a radio announcer once. And I, along with most of my esteemed colleagues, used to hate the sound of my own voice when I was starting out. I guess I still do, but it’s out of my mind long enough that I can make a living from talking, and helping other people talk.
There is no such thing as a “radio” voice, kids, and I’m here to tell you that it can be done, no matter who you are. (Although I guess if you’re completely non-verbal then you might need some help. Not impossible though!)
So how do you get over it? Time, mostly, but there are some things you can do.
One of my favourite quotes is that you can sum up bad radio in five words: “dead air, “um”, dead air” (‘dead air’ is a radio term for silence- i.e. the airwaves have gone ‘dead’). Nobody likes to hear the presenter waffling on, especially the presenter themselves! Being prepared will minimise the ‘ums’ and ‘aahs’, the awkward silences, and the vocal gymnastics as you search for the right words to say. Now this by no means gives you permission to read directly off the sheet, but if you write down some points beforehand and have a vague idea of where the segment is going, that will help. Also helps with…
Now I understand that telling someone to “be confident” is the same as telling someone to “beware of falling rocks”. But like not standing next to an unstable cliff face, there are some things you can do to help maximise your chances.
Apart from the preparation above, you could take a leaf out of Jonathan Van Ness’ book and start giving yourself some positive self-talk! Nothing tenses you up more than being hard on yourself, so pretend you’re an Olympic athlete and do some positive visualisation instead. See yourself being awesome. Then go and be awesome.
No one is better at being you, than you. Why be a shitty version of someone else?
Good advice for podcasting and, y’know, life…
But seriously. Take inspiration from other people if you want, but at the end of the day it’s YOU we’re listening to. Unless you’re playing a character, leave the funny accent, Morgan Freeman bass voice, or Love Song Dedications impression at the door. (Actually, a well-placed love song dedications voice can be pretty hilarious, but you get what I mean).
We've spoken about the importance of breathing already, but it bears repeating. Get that breathing right and it will help you sound more confident. And did I mention the Miss America Eyebrows? (Patent pending... but not really).
Practice? What, talking?
Yes. Talking. I know it’s something that most of us have been doing since our early years on this planet. But Usain Bolt was running for most of his life, too- and he still went to practice. Some things you can try, are (these are also great for warm-ups before you record):
Look, you might never actively LOVE the sound of your own voice. But you have something to say, right? So get out there and SAY IT!
Hope you liked this article!
I’m in the process of putting together more educational materials just like this one! If you’d like to be kept up to date, head over here and you’ll be the first to know when it goes live!
Chris Plumridge is a freelance audio producer, voiceover artist and writer from Leongatha in South Gippsland, Victoria, Australia.