Some Questions on Popular Culture, Voice and You
I want you to think about what you are seeing broadcast on programmed television at the moment, and ask yourself if those rules should apply to you, to your genre, to your channel and to your brand.
Do stiff presentation styles dominate news and magazine shows? What styles of presentation generally prevail on TV? Are they liberating or restrictive? Are conservative presenters well known and respected in your country? Does their fame impact on your perception of presentation in general, and on ‘good’ presentation?
What is your attitude toward your broadcast language? How do you use it in natural speech and how do you think you should use it on air? Do language experts leave you feeling threatened? Do you think that the way you speak your language is correct? Are you confident in your language? Do you feel that slang and street talk lessen or improve your language? Do you change the way you speak when you enter more formal environments or when you communicate with your elders?
Do you see your programme as international or local, as American or African? Describe your programme. Describe yourself. Do you fit together? Does the work you have done on your programme thus far reflect that fit as much as it should? If so, how? And if not, why not? Where you natural on camera, or do you think that you censored yourself at all or in any way? Could you have been freer, fitted the brand more, been more yourself, been more free, been more of an expert on contemporary trends etc? If you didn’t hit the mark completely, why do you think you fell short? What ‘rules’ were you afraid of messing up? Do those rules really exist? Were you worried at all about what your parents, grandparents or community might think of you if you were too free?
Do you: Communicate with ease using your natural accent? Try to neaten, tidy or lift your speech so that it sounds ‘better’? Try to present your language as you think it should be heard rather than how it is actually spoken? Treat your language as having hard and set rules of speech, or do you treat it as malleable and transitional? Do your fear sounding ugly, common, low class, poor, weak, boring etc?
Think about how you behave and communicate when you are happy and confident. Think about how you behave and communicate when you are with your peers. Think about how you behave and communicate when you feel endorsed. Think about how much fun you have at a party or when playing funky music at home. Write all these thoughts down. And now answer the following question. Do you carry this energy over into your on-air-behaviour? If not, why not?
Do you need to make peace with your language and accent and the rules you perceive to govern them? Do you still need to make peace with the fact that you are interesting enough to be on TV, and on more specifically on your show or channel?
Do you like your voice? Do you try to lower your pitch? Do you raise or lower your natural volume? Do you try to project? Do you try to vary your pace? If so, why?
It’s a lot to think about, but as a public speaker, it is what you should already have thought about.
So I hope that all these questions have got you thinking about your voice, your communication ability, your presentation style, your audience, your self and your self worth. And I hope that the thinking you have done in this regard will set you off on a vocal journey of discovery that centres on you and your natural ability.
© Donald Woodburn