New podcasters often cite “finding their voice” as one of their biggest challenges. Unless, of course, that new podcaster has prior on-stage speaking experience. Here’s how those two worlds are colliding. In a good way!
While it’s a stretch to lump public speakers in the same miniseries where I talk about TV, radio, and print encroaching on podcasting (and vice versa), it fits well enough for me. Because this group of people is finding great success in podcasting. Public speakers. Keynote presenters. Webinar facilitators. Stand-up comedians. Lecturers. Orators. Even preachers.
Since the beginning of our species, some bold people have been standing on a rock, on a milk crate, on a stage, or behind a lectern, sharing their words with crowds that number in the single digits to millions. Today, some of those people are choosing to do that virtually, behind the microphone of their podcast.
With very few exceptions, podcasting requires a voice. Most podcasters are hobbyists, not trained professionals who went to voice-training school. Most podcasters didn’t spend time as broadcasters perfecting their sonorous pipes. Most podcasters use their natural voice on their podcast.
And judging by the growth of podcasting and the non-stop deluge you’ll get when you ask for podcast recommendations on any social channel, listeners want to hear the real voices of the people producing the shows they love.
The podcast listening audience places value on real people telling their stories. A few asshats aside, they tend not to care about things like vocal fry or other vocal eccentricities that are “trained out” of professional paid announcers. Because by and large, podcasters are not paid professional announcers. They’re just regular peeps like you. And you really can’t control if someone likes your voice or not.
Still, lots of new podcasters struggle to find their podcasting voice. That means a voice that they, the podcaster is comfortable with and they, the audience, will like to hear. And for all the confidence-building I just did in prior paragraphs, I get that, for many podcasters, this struggle is real. Perception is reality. Maybe you don’t feel that you have a strong voice-presence. Perhaps you don’t have confidence in your command of the language you choose to speak on your program. Or maybe you’re convinced your thick accent will get in the way of your message.
I’m not so callous as to say “get over it”. Instead, I’ll say this: get better.
Voice “talent” is like any other “talent”: For the vast majority of us, we had to work at developing our voice. We weren’t born with it. It’s not a gift from the gods. Sure, quirks of anatomy might cause one voice to be seen as more-desirable for certain applications, which in turn might give the owner of that voice an advantage.
But were you not paying attention earlier when I said that podcast listeners want to hear all types of voices?
If we, the confident-voiced podcasters, have an advantage, it’s not an unfair one. We worked at (and are continuing to work at) our skills as we did presentations at our day jobs. We worked at our skills when we were leading webinars. We worked at our skills when we were reading aloud to the class.
We worked at our skills.
And because we worked at our skills, we do find it a lot easier to jump behind the podcast microphone. We are more comfortable with our voice because we’ve been listening to our voices for years (decades), and we got over the fact that we too didn’t like our voice when we first heard it played back through headphones. We got over that as we worked on our skills.
Side note: I understand that there are some physical limitations that restrict or downright prohibit this reality for some. Congenital defects, accidents, medical conditions… But these are the exceptions to the rule. Most people can work on their voice skills. And their confidence.
One of the ways you get better with and gain more confidence in your podcasting voice is to do what we did: Get on a stage.
Yes, you’ll probably get better just by talking on your podcast week after week (or day after day). But you get better faster if you find other venues to practice your voice. Practice (which means “pay attention to”) your voice the next time you speak in front of a group, either at work, school, or a social gathering. Submit to give a talk at your local Ignite event or PechaKucha. Attend a poetry slam or an open mic night at a local comedy club. Heck, even stepping up to the mic when a presenter at a conference asks for questions from the audience will help.
Any opportunity to speak in front of a group — small or large — is smart. And how you get better.
But I’m not a voice coach. I’m not trained in ways to help you overcome challenges unique to your own condition. All I can do is speak from experience. And experience tells me that those who have on-stage or in-front-of-crowds speaking experience have a much easier time finding their podcasting voice. So go find yours.
That’s my message to you.
I’m curious how you, the working podcaster, feel about your own voice. You can tell me in the comments or you can go to Flick.group/podcastpontifications and tell the little group we’re building.
Since you got this far, how about mashing that 👏 button a few dozen times to let me know you dig the written-word version of my thoughts on these podcasting topics? I’d sure appreciate it!
This article started life as a podcast episode. The 234th episode of my four-times-a-week short-form podcast called, oddly enough, Podcast Pontifications. It’s a podcast for working podcasters that’s focused on trends in our growing industry and ideas on ways to make podcasting not just easier, but better. Yes, you should listen. Here’s an easy way: 👇
Evo Terra (hey, that’s me!) has been podcasting since 2004, is the author of Podcasting For Dummies and Expert Podcasting Practices for Dummies, and is the CEO and founder of Simpler Media Productions, a strategic podcast consultancy working with businesses, brands, and professional service providers all around the world.