If you are considering a career in voiceover or in radio broadcasting, then you probably already suspect that your voice sounds nicer than the average person’s. Perhaps you’ve been complemented on your voice before or perhaps you’ve even done a little amateur radio broadcasting while at university… Whichever angle you’re coming from, it never hurts to work on your skills, so here are five tips to improve your radio voice.
When many people enter into a voiceover or radio broadcasting career, they try to imitate their favourite radio celebrities, or they perhaps try to sound a little like actors or musicians famous for their voices. However, the more effort you put into trying to sound like James Earl Jones, the less time you’ll have to develop your own sound. And, in the world of radio voiceover, your sound is your identity. Being yourself also has an added bonus, as radio broadcasting has become increasingly informal, meaning that a more relaxed tone and demeanour is actually exactly what a modern audience expects.
No matter how much of a natural you are, you’ll still need to practice, and for a voiceover artist or radio presenter this involves listening to recordings of your voice, both when you’re on the radio and just when you’re having a conversation with your friends in the pub. Compare your tone of voice, its depth, clarity, warmth, etc, and compare how natural you sound in both settings. If you can isolate how you sound when you’re just chatting with friends, you can bring that natural demeanour to your radio shows — this is especially valuable if you have to often read from scripts as doing so can make your voice sound flat and unexciting.
Gone are the days of the stilted BBC RP accent where most broadcasters sounded the same. Radio presenters all over the UK now come from… all over the UK. Regional accents are absolutely fine for radio, but you may have to standardise parts of your accent or at least lose some of the more esoteric dialect words. Listen to other regional radio presenters to figure out how to strike balance between regional and standard English. If you can find this balance you can work in both local and country-wide radio broadcasting. You don’t have to lose your voice’s regional identity, but you can probably temper it slightly, making it more appealing (and understandable) to a wider audience.
Working in radio often requires you to think on your feet — especially when talking to the public over the phone. Phone-ins are necessarily off script, as are most interviews. Sure, you can write out the questions, but you can’t predict all of the answers ahead of time. It’s also important that you develop your ad-libbing skills as you will probably often find yourself reading out badly written scripts. If you can quickly ad-lib a script to suit your own voice and style, you’ll sound much more natural to your audience. It’s difficult to fast-track your improvisation and ad-lib skills, as they’re skills you develop on the job, but if you keep these skills in your mind, you’ll be able jump on the right opportunities and be ready for potential pitfalls.
Many people who start working in radio are surprised that most presenters — no matter how natural they sound — work from scripts. Scripts keep even the most seasoned professionals from meandering into conversational cul-de- sacs. However, even a well-written script may not suit your particular style, dialect, or voice. Improv and ad-libbing will only get you so far, so a little scan over the script before the show is always a good way to iron out any kinks and make sure your show runs smoothly. Take a red pen and make a few notes for yourself and don’t be afraid to rewrite something in your own voice. As long as the message is similar, there shouldn’t be a problem.
That’s it for this radio voiceover guide. I hope readers have learned a few practical tips to improve their radio voiceover skills. If you’re interested in Guy’s voiceover skills, check out his commercial voiceover reel or get in touch to ask him to sample your script.