In our recent blog, 10 Steps for Creating an Effective ANR, we talked about the option of including a soundbite from a spokesperson in your Audio News Release. This week, our Production Director Sean Waldron shares how to get a polished, professional sound from any spokesperson your client chooses - whether or not they’ve ever recorded anything before.
Get The Best From Your Spokesperson
So, you’re creating an audio news release for your client, and they’ve lined up a spokesperson for the soundbite. Maybe it’s a doctor or some other type of expert. Maybe it’s the president of the company. Chances are, it’s not someone with a lot of experience talking into a microphone. No matter how knowledgeable someone is about the topic, or how dedicated they are to spreading the message, they just might not be naturally talented at sounding good on air.
Never fear - tried and true methods for getting a broadcast quality performance out of your spokesperson, every time - are here!
Encourage your client to involve your spokespeople early in the scripting process, and at the very least to run the last version by them BEFORE it is submitted for final approval. You want to be sure that they are comfortable with the wording. You don’t want a script to make it through the entire approval process, just to have your spokesperson question something, or worse - spot an error on the day of the recording. It happens more often than you might think.
Involving them from the start also gives them that much more lead time to get comfortable with the tone and the wording. Don’t make the mistake, as one client did, of withholding the script from the spokesperson so that they’ll sound “fresh.” That’s not how it works. More than anything, they’ll need to practice.
When it comes to sounding natural on air, there’s no substitute for good ol’ repetition. Get the approved script to your spokesperson a few days in advance so they have plenty of time to rehearse it out loud, preferably standing up, in front of an audience when possible - at least 5 or 6 times in a row. It’s best to practice reading to someone else so that it feels more conversational, but they might also find it useful to practice in front of a mirror, or to record themselves with their phone or computer.
Some might prefer to repeat it out loud as they drive back and forth from work, or to call a friend and practice on the phone. Every little bit will help. The more they get their mouth muscles moving around the words on the page, the better.
Coming into the recording session, the spokesperson should be familiar enough with the script that they don’t have to read directly from it, but rather glance at it as a guide. This will help the sound to be more fluid and conversational. Make sure that they are relaxed, and that there is plenty of water. Even professional voice-over artists need to warm-up their voices, especially first thing in the morning, and to stay hydrated while repeating the same few sentences over and over.
If they are recording from their home or office instead of in a studio, you’ll want them in a quiet room where they won’t be interrupted for 15 minutes or so. If your client is unable to sit in on the session, be sure that you are clear on what kind of sound they’re looking for.
Pro-tips - Spokesperson tricks of the trade from studio professionals
1. Pro-Tip For Energy:
One of the hardest things for inexperienced spokespeople to do is to maintain the same level of energy throughout the session. If they begin to lag, ask them to adjust their posture, stand up or to smile while they are reading. It may feel silly, but these small changes will yield big differences in how their voice sounds.
2. Pro-Tip For Sounding Natural:
Reassure your spokesperson that they don’t have to sound like a professional radio announcer. You don’t want them to sound like they’re reading from a script, but just saying “sound natural” isn’t all that helpful. Something our producer does is ask the spokesperson a few questions on topic, ending with one that leads them right into the soundbite. For example, if the soundbite starts off with:
“This November, it’s more important than ever to get your flu shot.”
The producer can begin by asking some warm up questions like:
“So, Dr. Expert, how can you tell the flu from a cold? Have you seen many flu cases this year?”
And then lead Dr. Expert right into the script with a prompt like:
“And do you think it’s a good idea to get a flu shot this season?”
The spokesperson will still be reading from the approved script, but sometimes being led with a question sets the conversational tone that you’re looking for.
3. Pro-Tip for Variety:
It can be tricky to give voice direction or even basic public speaking tips to someone who doesn’t normally have to do it every day. You might find yourself struggling to find the right adjective to describe to them exactly how you want them to sound: authoritative, friendly, excited, hopeful - and before you know it you’ve confused them about what you’re looking for, or they’ve lost the confidence they came in with.
To avoid this pitfall, start off by letting them read through the whole thing 2 or 3 times, and then say that you’re going to record three new takes in three completely different ways, just to hear which sounds best. That way, they’ll be expecting you to give them varied direction, and they won’t think it’s because they aren’t doing it right. They’ll loosen up and give you more options to choose from.
Also, try to keep your direction technical (faster, slower, louder, softer) and action-focused (say it like the idea just occurred to you, say it like you think it’s funny, say it like it’s the most important news, ever) rather than emotional (be enthusiastic, be inspiring, be confident.)
4. Pro-Tip for Perfection:
Finally, don’t be afraid to record several takes, and prepare your spokesperson ahead of time for that. There is always time for one more take.
We don’t usually get a say in who the client wants to use for their spokesperson, but the good news is that whether you’re working with a novice, a natural or a complete pro, these techniques will help you to get the best soundbite possible out of them.