When the great sports announcer, Vince Scully, passed away recently, I read a valuable quotation of his. He said he never wanted a partner in the booth because, “I want it to feel like I’m talking to you…I don’t really do play-by-play. I do conversation.” (Washington Post, 8/20/22)
What better way to reintroduce this blog post on sounding conversational. If talking to one person worked for perhaps the greatest announcer in sports, it can help you whether you’re a sports announcer, news anchor, or voiceover person.
When you’re in front of a microphone, sounding conversational is one of the biggest challenges whether you’re a voiceover artist or a broadcaster. That’s because none of us is trained to sound comfortable talking to a wall, which is usually what we’re doing when we go into a sound booth. To sound conversational, we need the interaction of another person.
The best delivery sounds like a conversation with a good friend. I call it “enlarged conversation” because you should be a bit more careful with your articulation, but the general feeling should be one of conversation.
If you think you don’t sound conversational enough, try creating the other person in the conversation. Right now imagine a person. This person should not be a vague, nebulous image. Pick a real person who you are comfortable talking with and can imagine very vividly–a sister, friend, coworker, or next-door neighbor.
The most important aspect of this exercise is for you to imagine the feedback the person gives you when you talk to them. Do they nod? Do they look interested? It’s this feedback that will allow you to adjust your delivery to sound conversational even if you’re reading. When the listener’s feedback is missing, we forget some of the essentials about how to sound conversational.
Remember, you’re always talking with just one person, not to a whole audience, because we listen one person at a time. The secret of a conversational delivery is putting a person in your head when you voice to get a comfortable delivery.
If imagining a person responding to you seems like a hard thing to do, I’ll give you a hint. You already do this every time you talk to someone on the phone. We instantly see the person we’re talking to in our mind. This is a technique you already have perfected. Now just start doing the same thing when you’re in the sound booth!
Read lots more about this in my ebook, BROADCAST VOICE HANDBOOK (see chapter 6 on sounding conversational). It’ll help you put this into practice.