Page last updated at 15:31 GMT, Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Presenting tips from a BBC voice coach

A mouth
Humming or singing in the shower wakes up your voice
While a reporter might have the best story and the best script in the world, if it is poorly presented, the audience will switch off.

Elspeth Morrison, a voice coach for the BBC College of Journalism, explains how to improve your broadcasting skills though the three P's of Presentation:

  • Planning
  • Preparing
  • Performing

PLANNING

Make your script sound like spoken English. When we write, it is usually for other people to read silently in their heads, so, at first, this may seem difficult.

Maintain a certain level of formality, so for example, it would be inappropriate to write: "Do yer know what, a load of rooves got, like, totally ripped off by that, er, freak mini-twister-type-thing, just down the road from school."

However, there are many formal words and phrases that work well in a written report but sound unnatural when read out loud.

WRITTEN V SPOKEN REPORTS

Text-based report Script
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Use short sentences to make sure you do not run out of breath when you are presenting.

Stress key words. To avoid sounding monotonous or "sing songy", stress the words that actually tell the story.

There are four ways to stress a word in English:

  • L e n g t h e n - or shorten - a word
  • Make the pitch of a word lower or higher, or glide from one to the other
  • Pause... before a word
  • Make a word LOUDER
If it helps, mark these stresses on your script. Try underlining, highlighting or adding accents above words and syllables. Your aim is to make your script easy for the listener, it doesn't matter how it looks on paper.

Clear speech is all that matters. All accents work well for broadcast as long as you can be understood. Pronouncing words correctly and clearly is an important part of presenting.

Practise and revise your script. One of the best ways to check your script is to read it to someone, gather their feedback, and make adjustments.

Look after your voice by drinking plenty of water and eating moisture-rich fruit and vegetables.

PREPARING

Wake up your body. Your voice reflects how the rest of your body is feeling. Try swinging your arms, gently stretching your jaw and massaging your face. Hum and sing on in the shower or on the way to school. Practice talking and walking, matching your pace to the rhythm of your speech.

Warm up your voice by tapping two fingers rapidly on your sternum while saying: "Aah". Beat your chest, then let out a howl. Practice tongue twisters. And finally, remember to speak out loud. Do this BEFORE going on air, so you know how your voice sounds, and can take action if necessary.

Practise in front of a camera or microphone. Point a camera or microphone in someone's direction and they may well strike a pose or fix a grin. The more you practice in front of a camera or microphone, the more relaxed you will feel, and the more natural you will be during your broadcast.

PERFORMING

Sound as if you mean it. If YOU do not sound interested in the subject, how do you expect your audience to be?

Check your posture when recording. Slumping can lead to a flat sound. Find an alert and comfortable position that signals to your body you are in work mode. Some people find it easier to stand. If you gesture in real life, do the same when you broadcast, otherwise you will not sound natural. Check however, that you are not covering your face or being too distracting.

Breathe as you would in normal speech. If you put... pauses in strange pla...ces, you will gasp like a... fish and your presentation will be hard to follow. Take a full breath at a full stop and top-up at a comma. Follow any stress marks you have made on your script.

Smile to improve your voice. It may sound inappropriate to smile while reporting a serious story, but imagining a smile at the back of your throat will lift your voice.

Think of the microphone as a human ear. You are neither in a large assembly hall nor telling someone a secret. Speak directly into the microphone while holding it between 10cm (4in) and 15cm (6in) away from your mouth.




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