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It seems like some people can get on a podcast or video and sound so effortless and natural. How is this possible? What’s the secret?

I got a question from a listener asking how they could improve their speaking voice when reading from a script. Since most of my episodes are scripted, I decided to share everything I’ve learned about improving my speaking voice and how I read from a script without sounding monotone or boring.

Highlights, Takeaways & Quick Wins

  • If you want to get better at something, do it everyday, even if it’s just 10-30 minutes.
  • Telling yourself you’ll never be good at something only keeps you from getting better at it. Instead, try saying, “I’m not good at this yet, but I’m going to put in the time and get better at it.”
  • Get comfortable with talking out loud and listening back to your recordings. It’s how you get better.
  • I believe that success comes with skill, so don’t worry if you don’t have a great voice yet. Work on improving it and you’ll grow a bigger audience as you improve.
  • Remember that not everyone is going to like the way you talk. You gotta learn to be ok with that.

Show Notes

  • 2:06 The first (and I’d say most important) piece of advice I have for you if you want to improve your ability to read out loud is:

Practice Reading Out Loud Every Day

  • 2:13 Jay Britton said this in episode 48, and it’s the best advice I’ve heard on the matter. Reading a script out loud is a skill. Like all skills, you aren’t born with a natural ability. As you do it more often, you’ll get more comfortable with it, you’ll get better at it, and people will start to notice. They’ll tell you you’re good at it which will increase your confidence and make you want to do it even more.

If you want to get better at something, do it everyday, even if it’s just 10-30 minutes.

Learn to Read Ahead

  • 3:05 Another great piece of advice Jay Britton gave was learn to read ahead while you’re reading something out loud. Reading ahead will feel unnatural at first, but after you do it for awhile it will get easier and you’ll start making less mistakes. You’ll make less mistakes because you’ll know what words are coming, and you’ll very rarely mess up the intonation of a sentence.

Don’t Worry About the Type of Voice You Have, Worry About How Well You Can Use It

  • 3:41 We can’t all sound like Ben Toalson or Barry White. Instead of being sad that you don’t have a deep sexy voice, focus instead on being a confident and dynamic speaker. Learn how to use your voice to the best of its abilities.
  • 4:18 Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re speaking:
    • Use emotion in your voice. Don’t talk like a robot.
    • Project your voice. Not too loud, but clear and full.
    • If you mess up, stop, relax, and say the word or sentence over correctly. Don’t freak out or apologize.
    • Don’t rush. Don’t rush. It’s ok to talk a little slower than average if you speak intentionally.
    • Speak clearly, make sure you say every word correctly (enunciate).

Stop Telling Yourself “I Can’t”

  • 5:06 We all have things we’re good at, right? We all have things we’re comfortable with. If you’re telling yourself that you’ll never be good at reading or talking out loud, I need you to stop doing that. You can get better. It just takes practice.

Telling yourself you’ll never be good at something only keeps you from getting better at it. Instead, try saying, “I’m not good at this yet, but I’m going to put in the time and get better at it.”

Work on Your Podcast Voice

  • 6:01 You aren’t stuck with the voice that you have. You aren’t stuck with the way that you speak right now. You can practice speaking in a way that people will find interesting. I think of podcast voice as kind of like Will Farrell’s character’s voice in Anchorman. You want to speak in your voice, just a little slower (if you’re a fast talker), and a little clearer.

Mimic the People With Voices You Like

  • 7:51 When you’re just starting out, it’s ok to imitate people who have voices that you love listening to. Don’t steal their lines, but pay close attention to the way they speak. How fast do they talk? How do they emphasize certain words? What do you like about the way they speak?

You Might Have to Suck for Awhile.

  • 7:23 You can either practice and get better in public, or in your bedroom. It’s ok to make test recordings that will never be published (I’m doing this with video right now, actually). Play around with your voice and see what sounds good to you. Experiment. Turn on your microphone and just talk for awhile. Read a book out loud.

Get comfortable with talking out loud and listening back to your recordings. It’s how you get better.

Listen Back to the Recordings You Make

  • 8:06 This will be painful when you’re just starting out. It’s weird, I know, but you need to get familiar with the way you sound in recordings and learn what you need to change. If you don’t know what mistakes you’re making, you won’t know how to fix them.

Try Standing While You Read

Do Breathing Exercises to Calm Down Before You Read

  • 9:29 I used to freak out before live shows, and it showed in my recordings. I started doing breathing exercises before shows to calm my nerves, and I started sounding less stressed. I started feeling more confident. Even just two minutes of slow breathing helped calm me down. Try it.

Read Your Script Through Ahead of Time. Rewrite Anything That You Struggle With.

  • 10:39 If you’re doing a podcast, you should take a few minutes and practice reading out loud your script. If you’re writing the script, read it out loud while you write it.
  • 11:06 It’s ok to get an outline and a rough draft down before you do that, but reading what you write out loud will help you identify the parts that will give you trouble. Rewrite those parts in a way that sounds natural when you speak them out loud.

Remember That in the Beginning, Not That Many People Are Paying Attention

  • 11:34 If you don’t already have a huge audience, there probably aren’t going to be that many people critiquing the way you talk.

I believe that success comes with skill, so don’t worry if you don’t have a great voice yet. Work on improving it and you’ll grow a bigger audience as you improve.

Embrace Your Natural Voice

  • 12:11 We all have a certain style of talking. Play to your strengths, but learn how to overcome your weaknesses. I’m thinking about a couple characters from Silicon Valley. There’s a variety of different characters on this show, and they all have different styles of speaking. Some of them are not confident speakers, some are introverts that prefer to use very few words. Some talk to much without having anything of true value to say.
  • 13:27 I was imagining what it’d be like if a few of these characters made podcasts. I’m thinking about Gilfoyle, particularly. His intensity and dry humor are his strengths, but he would need to work on being more dynamic with his delivery. If you’re not very dynamic either, you should work on injecting more emotion, adding some melody to your speaking voice, and changing up the rhythm of your voice, but embrace your strength too.

Remember that not everyone is going to like the way you talk. You gotta learn to be ok with that.

  • 14:17 The whole world isn’t your audience. There are going to be some people who like the way you talk, and some that don’t. If someone gives you feedback about the way you talk, accept it and see if there’s any truth to it. Take the feedback and improve where you can.
  • 14:44 Be comfortable with who you are. We all have unique voices, and that’s a good thing. It’d be boring if everything talked the same way and said the same things. Embrace your voice instead of being ashamed of it.

Recap:

  1. You’re going to suck for awhile. The way to not suck is to practice everyday forever.
  2. Practice reading out loud every single day. Every single day.
  3. Don’t worry about the way your voice sounds now, focus on making your voice sound better. You define better. Imagine the way you want to sound in your mind, and work on getting there.
  4. Read your script out loud before it’s time to record. Identify any problem spots and fix them if you can, practice them if you can’t.
  5. Listen back to your recordings to identify problems that you need to fix.
  6. You’ll have to suck for awhile before you get good. You can either do this in private or in public, but it is kind of fun to have a public record of how far you’ve come.

Q&A:

  • 19:28 Jordan asked: Script vs outline: Do you write out what you’re going to say word-for-word, do you write down a simple outline with points you want to cover, or something in between? How does this affect how natural you sound?
  • 19:54 I usually write out a pretty detailed outline. I’ll write a main point or takeaway as a headline, then write a couple paragraphs for each headline. I do go off script sometimes, and that’s something I’ve gotten better at through time and practice.
  • 21:00 In the beginning, the more you write, the better you’ll sound. Reading from a script and sounding a little robotic is still better than fumbling around for ten minutes, trying to find the right words and not making a point (or making your point poorly). It just comes back to practice.
  • 21:23 Rob Williams asked: How do you find the right way to say things when you go off script?
  • 21:36 Sean McCabe responded: “The best tip is to know your message. Think about the times you’re passionate about something and you’re talking to a friend about it. You don’t need a script. It sounds natural. It sounds fluid. That’s what you want to emulate.”
  • 21:53 That is so true. The things that you really care about, the things you’re passionate about, those are the things you know best and that you can talk about comfortably for hours.
  • 22:04 You want to really know your message before you start talking. I’ve discovered that writing about something multiple times really engrains the words, sentences, phrases, and information into my brain. Writing is so important.
  • 22:30 If there were only two things I want you to takeaway from this episode, they would be:
    1. Write about the things you’re going to be talking about
    2. Practice, practice, practice