Is Your Delivery Too Intense?

by Ann S. Utterback, Ph.D. on July 16, 2014

Take a second and imagine you’re at the emergency room with a loved one.  You’re tense waiting for someone to tell you something.  Do you want the doctor to run out to talk to you and sound like he or she can’t control their own excitement about this medical crisis?  Certainly not.  I feel the same way about what I hear on television, radio or the internet.  I want a clear, calm delivery that lets me decide how excited or agitated to be.

I was working with a television reporter the other day who had ramped up the intensity of her delivery to a level that was clearly too high.  When I asked her why she had done this, she said it was because the events of the story were so exciting she had gotten caught up in the excitement.  Does this ever happen to you?  If you’re a reporter, you might be covering a riot or an explosion.  Any story that gets the heart pumping.  If you’re a voice over artist, you might be pushing your delivery to get more excitement about a product or you might get directed to sound overly excited.

The problem is that if your excitement bleeds into your delivery too much, you’re doing a disservice to your listener.  Let me give you an example I always cite when I’m talking about this.  On 9/11, the only network I could watch was ABC because Peter Jennings had such a calm delivery.  (Listen to this clip of Peter Jennings on 9/11.)  He wasn’t adding to the crisis in the way he was reporting it.  Other anchors were.  All I wanted was to hear what was happening.  That day certainly didn’t need drama added to it.  I wanted a calm, steady voice that did not portray hysteria.

Keep this in mind the next time you have the feeling you should ramp up your delivery.  Ask yourself, am I letting my emotions take over my delivery?  And remember, often it’s the calm, steady voice that we want to hear whether we’re in the emergency room or listening to media.

Want to read more on this topic?  Check my recent post, “Rapid-Fire Delivery Can Get You Fired.”


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave Cupp March 6, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Thanks for posting this, Ann.

I’ve been a life-long NBC fan; but for my money no anchor ever connected better with viewers than Peter Jennings.
Tragically, to a certain extent Jennings became a victim of 9/11 himself. The pressures he faced covering that tragedy drove him back to cigarettes – and four years later the cigarettes killed him.
These links go to a clip of Jennings at work on 9/11 – and to what became his final broadcast: Jennings Final Broadcast Jennings Covers 9/11

Ann S. Utterback, Ph.D. March 6, 2012 at 4:51 pm

Thanks, Dave. I totally agree with you. We lost one of the greats when we lost Peter Jennings. The clips you added are good ones for us all to see.

Gary Terzza July 20, 2014 at 5:31 pm

I recognise elements of myself in this Ann. Back in 2001, as an announcer on Channel 4 TV here in the UK, I was introducing a brand new chat show with two big British stars – Richard & Judy. It was a big deal for the broadcaster, so I gave it 110%.

This was probably about 30% too much as the next day The Guardian newspaper remarked that I should “drink less caffeine in the afternoon.”

I have since toned down my enthusiasm!

Ann S. Utterback, Ph.D. July 21, 2014 at 4:33 pm

Thanks for the great example, Gary! Sometimes we confuse vocal energy with urgency of speech and an overuse of pitch changes. Caffeine can do that, too 😉 My advice is stay away from both!!

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