Permission To Be Yourself Behind the Mic – Episode 13

Permission to be yourself behind the mic

Being a Podcaster can be really exciting. The fun part is always the recording. You've got your gear set up and you're ready to hit that record button. But then you get behind the mic and bam, you freeze. It could only be a second, but then you start thinking what do you say? You stumble over your words and start thinking what if they don't get what I'm trying to say? What if I sound weird and not like myself?

I've seen it countless times before. The uncertainty that comes from speaking and the chain reaction of thoughts to circles your brain before something comes out the way you want. And of course, in that moment, it must seem like an eternity, that thinking, the pause or stumbling. But in reality, those synapses in our brains are a fraction of a second. So what do you say when you finally open your mouth? And how will you sound?

Back when I worked in radio, there would be salespeople who convinced a small business owner that they should be the face and voice of their store. "You should be voicing your own commercials!" Which I'm not against, but sometimes they would be "sold" this tactic and they aren't comfortable with this new role that they have to embody. Then it's too late. They've show up in my studio, script in hand, nervous and unsure of themselves. I've even had someone say to me they didn't know what they were doing at my studio, but their boss made them come and it was in their calendar. They were surprised that they were going behind the mic reading their first 30-second commercial for the first time! That shock and surprise will change the sound of their voice. Of course, it was my job to ease their mind, get them comfortable, and showcase their true selves - their real voice. Now, those are extreme cases. As Podcasters, we've chosen to get behind the mic, but sometimes what we hear back is not what we thought we'd sound like.

You might not be reading a 30-second commercial, but being behind the mic for podcasting is very much the same. You want to convey a certain emotion to connect with your listener. To make them take action. To make them care about what you have to say. How are you relating to your audience with your voice?

Today while I'm coaching Podcasters and directing these voices, these same qualities need to shine through. I'll get on a call with a Podcaster asking them to get ready, get behind the mic, and right away they sit up straight, hands at their lap, and move into a "proper" posture behind the microphone. What is it in our brains that is making us think we need to stand or sit in a certain way behind the mic? Is it to be polite or is it because I'm watching them? Their subconscious mind kicks into high gear. OK, I'm going to act "professional", probably because being behind a mic isn't a normal everyday thing regular people do. But even though there's a microphone in the room, it can still mean that you can be yourself. You are free to be you and move the way you normally do, but being aware that your mouth should be close to the mic when you speak.

As an example, if you talk with your hands, much like I do, do so behind the mic. Just be aware that you won't accidentally hit the mic or your mic stand because that accidental hitting noise can travel to your mic and get recorded and you don't want that sound. Or if you have your notes in your hands, that you're not waving them around so much that you can hear paper rustling in the background.

Another thing I used to do for fun as a kid, was to play with facial expressions. When I was getting ready for bed every night, I used to lock myself in the only bathroom that we had in the house and make the silliest faces while making up my own stories. This led me to use my voice creatively and realizing the connection between what you do with your face and body to convey a certain tone or emotion in your voice. If you make an angry face, but say the words "I love you", that doesn't sound believable. Or if you make a really happy face and say "I hate this". Do you really trust that I'm hating this right now? Your face is a vehicle to convey the emotion you want from your voice. Although my family didn't like me barricading myself in the bathroom, hogging the big mirror we had, maybe you'll have better luck and hopefully with more than one large mirror in the house to use than I did. So go practice that in front of a mirror and play around with your facial expressions while say phrases and make up a story as I did!

So when you are behind the microphone, I give you permission to be yourself. Whether that is to be goofy, silly or be really animated with your body or facial expressions, you should be doing all of that when you're recording, if that's what you normally do. Just because there is a microphone in front of your face, doesn't mean you should change who you are and how you act to get your message across.

I am here to give you permission to be yourself behind the mic. So the next time you're getting ready to record, say to yourself, "I have permission to be myself behind the mic." Be who you are and speak like you normally would when someone is with you and that will translate on to our speakers and earbuds for your voice to be heard; your true voice.

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