News Directors may be the ones to coach their personnel toward more effective on-air delivery.
The basics every ND should know:
How to Hear and Analyze Delivery
How to Address Deficits
How to Encourage Good Habits
How to Promote Individual Styles
Hear and Analyze Delivery
Start by knowing the variables affecting delivery. You could sort the many variables into three main categories:
- Breath: the diaphragm and lungs
- Vibration: the larynx (vocal cords)
- Shaping & Toning: the pharynx and nasal cavity
- Shaping & Articulating: the mouth and jaw (tongue, teeth, musculature)
- Pitch: high and low tones
- Tempo: slow and fast speed
- Volume: soft and loud intensity
- Rhythm: pausing and phrasing
- Enunciation: articulation
Practices and Environmental Influences
- Scripts written to be said
- Ability to concentrate and relax on-air
- Ability to think and ad-lib on-air
- Knowing accurate pronunciations
- Proper microphone placement
- Confidence and stamina
- Good eyesight
- General good health
ND’s should listen to their staff’s on-air delivery as a stranger might. They should encourage staff to conduct frequent air-checks to review their own delivery. Periodically, sit down and playback air-checks to discuss delivery. Note strengths and deficits. Be kind but be honest about what you hear. Make a plan to focus on improvements. Emphasize only one area of improvement at a time so as not to distract on-air performance. Allow time for practice and adjustments.
Here are common problems in delivery and possible remedies:
- Breathy — practice more shaping and articulation
- Nasal — divert more breath through mouth
- Hoarse — rest the vocal cords, perhaps adjust pitch
- Pattern: Sing-Song — mark copy to emphasize key words
- Halting — read in phrases or full ideas, not in words
- Mumbly — exercise the musculature, practice articulation prior to air
- Whiney — see remedy for nasal and sing-song
- Slurred — see mumbly
- Too Fast — mark copy areas to slow down: on complex ideas
- Too Slow — mark copy areas to speed up: on simple or routine content
- Monotone — work on using at least three levels of pitch — mid-pitch for most content, upper-pitch for emphasis on key words, low-pitch for endings.
When air-checking your staff, use this or a similar tool to rate performance:
Overall “Likeability” 1 2 3 4 5
Distractions? Describe: _____________________________
Vocal Foundation 1 2 3 4 5
Language Control 1 2 3 4 5
Practices/Other 1 2 3 4 5
Practice Good Habits
Emphasize the Goal: Clarity plus Humanity = Trusted Delivery
- Clarity conveys information.
- Humanity conveys feeling.
Manage Your “Physicality”
- Exercise the diaphragm. Use diaphragmatic breathing.
- Use good posture. Stand up if possible.
- Warm up the larynx, pharynx, jaw and tongue.
- Use “extreme exercises:”
- Hold tongue behind teeth through script
- Laugh through the script
- High cry through the script
- Hold low pitch through the script
- Speed through the script
- Take pre-broadcast stretch.
- Take cleansing breath (during countdown).
Manage Your “Mentality”
- Be Alert. Concentrate.
- Get good rest, diet, exercise.
- Ignore distractions.
- Shun “last minute-itis.”
- Be natural. Conversational.
- Speak to one listener – a likeable acquaintance.
- Use a volume consistent with a 3-5 foot distance to the listener.
- Relax but assert control.
- Be empathic but not emotional.
- Be focused but not intense.
Manage Your “Technicalities”
- Know your microphone & settings.
- Stay on microphone “beam.”
- Aim breath past microphone diaphragm.
- Set levels in advance. Mic first. Then the monitor.
- Remove the headphones (if free to do so).
Manage Your Copy
- Know what it says.
- Know what it means.
- Picture it.
- Feel it.
- Use hand and facial gestures.
- Write it the way you say it.
- Pre-read all copy out loud.
- Keep one idea per sentence.
- Mark copy as needed – such as key words, optional end points, etc.
- Pronounce words properly:
- Pre-read to avoid surprises
- Use clear pronouncers, liberally
- Look up, check any questionable terms, names
Promote Individual Styles
Longtime CBC trainer David Candow says your unique gift to the listener “is you.” Be yourself when you speak.
Turn a weakness into a strength. David Brinkley’s halting delivery was his trademark. He did it with conviction.
The more you “perform” the more you risk losing authenticity. Base your style on what comes naturally.
Style can be associated with the content. Newscasters cannot radiate too much personality, but reporters or hosts are given greater license. Are you more “Reflective?” “Hard boiled?” “Nutty?”
Newscasters and hosts often succeed when their delivery is not noticed. They still have a style – it just happens not to call attention to itself.