Definition of ‘Professional Voice’
According to Ames (2016), professional speech or voice is arguably less emotive and often serves as deliberate speech. This could also mean to say that professional voice is not the speakers’ ‘true’ voice but an augmented version of their general talking voice. Most people take on a professional role when they are in a professional setting such as an event, at work, or perhaps around new people to make a particular impression. In news reporting, it is important to maintain a natural, conversational tone of voice but also inhabit an authoritative voice (Wasung 2010). Therefore, my definition of ‘professional voice’ is a type of speech that stems from the desire to deliver information or a set of points.
A voice is made to sound professional by the way it sounds when it is delivered. Different professions call for different types of professional voice. For example, news presenters are encouraged to speak in a lower pitch as to sound more credible and reliant on information (Wasung 2010). A journalist would not speak to their friends in the same voice that they use when presenting a serious issue on the news. A voice sounds more professional when it is strong, smooth and structured and can even enhance your chances of rising to CEO (Shellenbarger 2013). Lloyd (2015) argues that a voice can come across as sounding unprofessional or ill educated if the speaker talks too quickly or too slowly or if their accent impedes intelligibility. Shellenbarger (2013) also agrees that ‘…a nasal whine, a raspy tone or strident volume can drive colleagues to distraction.’
It is obvious that a professional voice is one that is possessed by a professional when they are required to deliver information to an audience, rather than a casual conversation with friends. In saying this, it is still important for professionals – depending on their field of work – to maintain a natural feel to their voice as to come across as relatable to their audience.
What makes a great speech?
When discussing what makes a great speech, there is much to consider. How well does the speaker deliver their speech? What message are they trying to get across? Are they successful in doing so? Does the speaker keep their audience interested?
Nick Vujicic is a motivational speaker from Australia who was born without arms or legs. In 2011, Vujicic visited a school to present one of his speeches with his aim being to motivate the students to keep moving and never give up no matter how bad their losses. He begins his speech by introducing himself and immediately jumping into a few jokes. By using lots of anecdotes, he has addressed his audience in an appropriate way. School children are often drawn to humour and Vujicic appeals to them well (Curtis 2015). Goswami and Bryant (1991) agree that using analogies and metaphors help children understand messages in an easier way and a way in which they will remember.
Barack Obama publicly addressed the shooting of Trayvon Martin in 2012. Although this was mainly a public statement regarding the incident of George Zimmerman shooting Trayvon Martin without being charged with murder or manslaughter, President Obama took this opportunity to acknowledge the bigger issue of the unfair treatment of African Americans in the United States. This speech was effective because similarly to Vujicic, Obama focused on his audience – the US – and told them what they needed to hear. He used anecdotes to reveal the ugly truth that people do not always hear on the news about the day-to-day struggles of being an African American living in the US.
According to author Fletcher Dean (2011), both Vujicic and Obama have presented a successful speech. They focussed on their audience and solved their needs, as well as relied more on emotions and less on logic. They did this by telling stories about themselves and appealing to the audience to make them feel something. Among other features such as speaking in a clear and loud voice and using gestures and moving around that helped to keep people involved and interested, these speeches are considered to be effective as they concentrated on their audience and their emotions.
Emphasis in Professional News Reading
After listening to the recorded version of the news script from week 1, I picked up on words that the newsreader, Kate Stowell, emphasised whilst presenting. I noticed that there is not much of a pattern to her emphasis, however at least one word or phrase is accentuated per sentence. This does not include more serious or negative situations. She tends to ‘go down’ and lower her voice in the more serious topics (SBS World News Australia 2010). Listening again to my own recording of the news script, there are obvious differences between the two. My emphasis on words is much more random and less obvious, whereas Stowell has structure to her sentences and the way she speaks them. In my reading, it is difficult to tell which parts are on serious topics and which are more light-hearted as they are all said similarly – if not the same – which is something to work on throughout the term. As a professional newsreader, Stowell is also proficient at ‘going up’ and ‘going down’ at appropriate places throughout the reading while I am not practised in doing so.
Ames, K 2016, COMM12033: Speech and Script Lesson 2 Perspectives on Speech: study guide, CQUniversity e-courses, https://moodle.cqu.edu.au/pluginfile.php/293225/mod_resource/content/8/COMM12033_Week2_Mod.pdf
Curtis, S. MiddleWeb 2015, ‘Humor in the Classroom’, blog post, 1 October, viewed 25 March 2016, http://www.middleweb.com/5053/humor-in-the-classroom/
Goswami, U & Bryant, P 1991, ‘Phonological Skills and Learning to Read’, Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, vol. 32, no. 7, pp. 1173, viewed 25 March 2016, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1469-7610.1991.tb00359.x/abstract
Lloyd, D 2015, How to Make Great Radio: Techniques and Tips for Today’s Broadcasters and Producers, e-book, Biteback Publishing, London, available at https://books.google.com.au/books?id=CrPzCAAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false
SBS World News Australia 2010, Kate Stowell: News reading sample, video, 22 September, viewed 24 March 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-qKDbNz2YI
Shellenbarger, S 2013, ‘Is This How You Really Talk?’, The Wall Street Journal, 23 April, viewed 21 March 2016, http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887323735604578440851083674898
Speechwriting 2.0 2011, ‘5 Steps to a Successful Speech – Part 1’, blog post, 1 December, viewed 23 March 2016, http://thespeechwriter.typepad.com/onspeechwriting/2011/12/5-steps-to-a-successful-speech-part-1.html
Wasung, K. WordPress 2010, ‘Reporting using Voice’, blog post, 15 September, viewed 21 March 2016, https://reportingtechniques.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/reporting-using-voice/