All Emergency, All the Time?

by Ann S. Utterback, Ph.D. on September 10, 2019

Most of us have heard Aesop’s fable about the boy who cried wolf.  If you don’t know it, it’s about a shepherd boy who was tending sheep and repeatedly called wolf just for fun so he could laugh at the adults who came running. When a real wolf came, no one believed him.

Now, you may think this has nothing to do with broadcasting or voiceover work.  But in reality it does, and I’ll tell you how.

I’m going to address this to broadcasters first, but you voiceover people keep reading.  I’ll get to you.

We’re living in times that no one could call calm.  The news each day is filled with stories that are alarming, but they’re alarming in different degrees.  I hear way too many broadcasters ramping their deliveries to a level of emergency on every story every single day.

What’s missing from these deliveries is consideration of the level of emotion needed for each story.  Going full-on emergency every day limits where you can go with your voice at times when there is a really big emergency like hurricane Dorian or the weekend that saw shootings in both El Paso and Dayton.  You don’t want the listener to tune you out, as the shepherd boy’s listeners did, when you really have a crisis to explain.

If you’re a broadcaster, don’t trip on the “all emergency, all the time” stumbling block.  In fact, sometimes the most dramatic delivery you can give is the opposite of emergency.  Listen to the powerful delivery from decades ago by Edward R. Murrow concerning the Joseph McCarthy hearings.

Now voiceover folks, you can apply these ideas to your delivery as well.  When you’re reading copy or a novel for an audio book read through it first.  Look for peaks in the copy.  Where do you need to put the climax of the emphasis or drama in the story or copy?  Think of peaks and valleys as you read.  You might even mark these on the copy so you won’t miss them.  It’s a simple thing to do that can vastly improve your voicing.

So don’t be the boy who cried wolf.  Give each piece of copy a serious analysis and decide where on the level of urgency and, possibly, emergency does it belong.  Your listener will thank you.

For more tips on delivery, instantly download a copy of the fifth edition of BROADCAST VOICE HANDBOOK by clicking here.

 

 

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