Monday, June 06, 2016

Kick-Start Your Voice for E-Learning / M-Learning that Truly Engages Your Audience

You may be surprised to learn that your voice is a key determinant of success in a webinar, presentation (live or recorded), or video-based e-learning. While most people think that having sharp graphics is the key, if you deliver your message in a monotone, mumble, and ramble, you'll lose your audience, no matter how great the visual presentation.

Here are tips for making your voice keep your audience's attention and communicate your message:

* Audio recording for a presentation
* Podcast or voice over
* Audio accompaniment for images, PowerPoint, maps, instructions, e-learning
* Story

The tips are based on voice coaches and experts Tracy Goodwin, VoiceBunny, etc.

Interview with Tracy Goodwin, Voice Coach, on LifeEdge (hosted on Vimeo).

1.  Begin with confidence. Invite your audience to join you and communicate your enthusiasm. If it takes you 5 minutes to get "warmed up," it's too long. Your audience will have already abandoned you at the one-minute mark.

2.  Speak clearly. Don't mumble or start swallowing your words. Keep your voice strong and healthy. This may involve making sure that you're hydrated and that you are well rested.

3.  Avoid mispronunciations.  If you have doubts about how a word is pronounced, look it up in a dictionary, and practice. If you mispronounce technical terms and you're a technical expert, you have just undermined your credibility. (!)

4.  Avoid speaking in a monotone. Pause, create emphasis where appropriate, and communicate emotion. This ties to a theme that unites all the points: variety.

5.  Speak conversationally, and stay relaxed. This is especially important when you want your audience to feel comfortable and to trust your information and tips.

6.  Emphasize the key points. Know how to guide the audience to the most important part.  Pacing, pauses, tonal shading may all play a part.

7.  Talk to the audience, don't simply read. Do not simply read the same words that the audience will see on the screen.

8.  Personalize, if possible.  If appropriate, elaborate with brief experiential anecdotes. Jot down an outline or a full script of your anecdote so that you'll avoid rambling.

9.  Keep each point brief. Avoid digressions. If you are providing an accompaniment to a PowerPoint presentation, keep each point brief and stay focused. Less is definitely more.
10.  Vary pace, rhythm, tone, volume, breathing.  You may need a coach for this, but if you don't have the opportunity, you can at least practice recording yourself, and then listening. Do you put yourself to sleep? Do you find your mind wandering as you listen to yourself? If you bore yourself, imagine what you'll do to your audience.

11. Know your audience. Understand their expectations. If you don't, you run the risk of very negative reviews and feedback. I volunteered to read passages of a book by Wilkie Collins, and I thought I'd make it a lively, dramatic reading, replete with voices for the different characters (one of whom was totally unhinged, and murderously so). Well, for the one listener who wanted a bland, monotonous delivery, I was a disagreeable surprise. He/she wasted no time posting vicious reviews of my effort. The fact that several listeners applauded my performance did not really help. I obsessed about that negative review to the point that I stopped recording for almost a year!

There are several ways to record your audio:

Audacity:  This open source software program is by far the best option for creating excellent, easily modified and edited audio tracks. However, it does take a bit of time to understand how to convert to mp3 and also to use some of the features, such as noise elimination.

PowerPoint:  You can record your voice directly and embed the file in each slide. The result is a gargantuan file.

Record with your SmartPhone:  Android has a very easy to use Voice Recoder App. You can also then run the audio through speech to text and create a script.

Garageband: Garageband is easy to use and comes free on Macs and iPhones.

Links and Resources
Interview with voice expert Tracy Goodwin:

Improve your Speaking Abilities:

Top 10 Voice Over Tips:

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