Voice Matters

We’ve known for decades that the sound of the voice actually influences an audience at least as much as the words themselves, if not more. Now research is showing exactly how emotions change the voice, and how the management of pitch, tempo and emphasis is likely to impact the way that viewers feel about your anchors and reporters.

How you feel changes how you sound.

Research: Emotion changes the voice and, more importantly, listeners intuitively recognize the change. Viewers can tell when your team is emotionally flat, or worse, reading with emotion that is inconsistent with the story.

Coaching Your Team: Ban distractions and set time for the team to focus immediately before the newscast. Their voices communicate their emotional state, and their emotional state is critical to newscast success on several levels. Based on how they seem to feel, viewers will make judgements about the importance and quality of the information, about the kind of people they are, and about their relationships with their colleagues. When talent are not relaxed and breathing easily, then tension in the body (especially the jaw, throat and chest) becomes tension in the voice and can compromise effectiveness across the board. Put simply, the right frame of mind supports the right sound. Your teal will sound best when they take time to get in the right frame of mind before going on the air.

Pitch levels reveal attitudes toward stories and colleagues.

Research: Moderate or no pitch variation is associated with sadness, fear, disgust, and boredom. Extreme variation suggests happiness, interest, excitement and in some cases, fear. This finding is correlative with a key research finding related to body language: Animated persons are generally considering more interesting, and are liked and trusted more.

Coaching Your Team: Challenge them to aggressively vary tempo and pitch. The variety of sound and rhythm communicates interest to the viewer. Anything less is likely to read as boredom or apathy. Research also indicates that more expressive people are generally considered more trustworthy — obviously an important quality for your team and your newscasts. The challenge, of course, is for your talent to marry vocal variety meaningfully to content.

You can’t say what you mean until you know what to emphasize.

Research: Emphasis modifies meaning.  Try repeating this sentence — He’s giving his money to Herbie — six times, emphasizing a different word each time.  Note how dramatically a change in emphasis changes the meaning.Talent are not truly in control of the message until they know where the emphases belong.

Coaching Your Talent: Insist that talent identify the words and phrases that demand emphasis. No one, repeat, no one communicates as powerfully when they’re reading cold as they do when they know what they’re talking about — and why it matters.  Taking time to consider what’s more important is always valuable. We recommend it to talent at every level of ability and experience.

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