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Use Your Best VOICES on the Air

Brian Jud

Appearances on television and radio are excellent ways to sell books – if you perform successfully. Both the content of your message and the way you deliver your words determine your ability to communicate with your audience.

Here is a tip to help you speak more effectively while performing on the air: control your VOICES. This is an acronym made up of the first letter of the words Volume, Other's viewpoint, Inflection, Confidence, Enthusiasm and Speed. Vary these as you speak and you will deliver your message more effectively and pleasantly:

Volume. Before your segment begins, a sound check will be conducted and the audio controls will be adjusted accordingly. However, your general apprehension might make you feel less sure of yourself, and your voice may become progressively louder or softer. If this occurs, the host may mention it during a break. Or, if you are on a television show you may see the producer alerting you via hand signals to adjust your volume.

Others' viewpoints. The audience did not tune in to be sold something. It does not care about you or your book, but wants to be entertained or informed. Engage audience members by involving them in your presentation. Convince them it is to their advantage to listen because you have information that will help them. Before you go on a show, know who is in the audience and how the information in your book will benefit them.

Inflection. Avoid a monotonous tone of voice by accenting important words, emphasizing them as you speak. Alter the way you accentuate your words so you control their impact. Adjust your volume periodically to emphasize important points and to avoid talking in a monotone.

Confidence. People associate competence with confidence. If you sound confident, the audience is more likely to believe you know what you are talking about. The sound of confidence is not necessarily a deep, resonant voice. It is a ready answer to a tough question or a command of the facts supporting your position. But if you experience nervousness, there are several techniques you can use to project confidence.

· Listen to the interviewer's questions carefully, giving you time to think of an answer.

· Do not be afraid to say, "I don't know " or "I can't recall," if you do not or cannot. Some questions are meant to throw you off balance to see if you really know what you are talking about (but these are usually asked by the host before you go on the air, if they occur at all).

· Breathing exercises can help alleviate anxiety.

· To the extent necessary, your hosts will try to make you feel at home. They recognize that you are apprehensive about appearing on the show, and they will do what they can to help you relax. If you have any questions, ask them before the show begins.

· Do not think about your spouse, family and friends in the audience. Think about the questions you may be asked and how you will use them to reach your objectives for the show.

· Be yourself. Speak naturally and use personal stories to create camaraderie with the audience. Do not try to tell a joke if you feel nervous. It is less likely to go over well, and the lack of laughter (if you are performing before a live audience) will make you even more apprehensive.

· People are rooting for you to succeed. They empathize with your fallibility and may support you more if you prove yourself human. Do not worry about making a mistake because it can make for a better interview. Learn to laugh with yourself.

· Many radio studios have a cough button on the console. If you must cough or clear your throat, press this as you do so and it will not be heard over the air. If there is no cough button, turn away from the microphone and cover your mouth. Keep water with you and take a drink regularly.

· The audience is less aware of your nervousness than you are. Do not call attention to it on the air, but if you feel it necessary, admit it to the interviewer before the show begins. This will help you relax, as well as build rapport.

· Relax and enjoy yourself, but do not get too comfortable and make flippant remarks. Maintain your professionalism and think about what you are going to say before you say it. If you are unsure if a comment will be suitable, do not say it. As the saying goes, "If in doubt, leave it out."

Enthusiasm. Temper your self-confidence with enthusiasm, communicated by speaking with a smile in your voice and passion in your heart. Use inflection to project enthusiasm as you accent important words.

Note: Transferring enthusiasm doesn't mean you must jump up and down, emphasizing every word. You can achieve it by speaking slowly, articulately and with conviction. It can be communicated by pausing before answering a question, speaking with a smile in your voice and being prepared with responses to questions and objections. Adequate preparation will serve to enhance your enthusiasm.

You can have some fun as you conduct radio interviews via telephone by watching yourself in a mirror. This will enable you to practice gesturing (to add inflection to your voice) and smiling. You may also find it helpful to stand as you speak. Doing so opens up your diaphragm and allows you to speak with a more resonant voice.

Speed: Your rate of speech can interfere with effective communication. Your general nervousness will cause you to speak a little more quickly than you would normally, distorting your articulation and interfering with effective communication. And the faster your vocal cords move, the higher your voice will pitch. Slow down your speech and your tone will drop, giving you a confident, resonant voice. If you talk too quickly, your pronunciation will suffer. The show host may ask you to repeat yourself regularly, which becomes irritating to all parties. In addition, you may sound either nervous or untrustworthy.

The normal rate of speed is about 130 - 140 words per minute. You can learn where you fit on this scale by speaking for one minute into a cassette recorder. Then play it back and count your words. If you speak too quickly or too slowly, practice until you get a good feel for your most comfortable and effective rate. Practice better enunciation by reading aloud to yourself and to your family or friends.

You can even use affirmations to help. For example, if you tend to talk too fast, remind yourself to slow down through this affirmation: "I regularly speak particularly slowly and articulately." It's difficult to say this quickly, and repeating it will help improve your articulation.

Performing on the air can be as much fun as it is productive. Use your VOICES wisely and you will sell more books, entertain and inform the audience and provide the host with a good show. It is a win-win situation for everyone.


Brian Jud is a frequent guest on radio and television, host of the television show The Book Authority and author of the media-training video program You’re On The Air. Contact Brian at P. O. Box 715, Avon, CT 06001; (800) 562-4357; fax (860) 276-2453; or visit