In seventh grade, one of my assignments for English class was to write an autobiography that included what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was not able to narrow it down to just one potential career, so I chose two: a news anchor and/or a Broadway star.
Somehow along the way, I ended up starting off college as an accounting major, but in my sophomore year, I found my way back to my “true north” and changed my major to communications while continuing to sing wherever and whenever I could.
I started voice lessons in my tween years and continued with them right up to the birth of my second son in my early 30s. Nearly two decades of vocal training have deeply influenced my own delivery as well as how I teach others about how to use their voice effectively while presenting on camera.
So one of the first things I ask my class when we start discussing the vocal element of performance success is, “Are any of you musicians?”
With my musical background, I am predisposed to think in terms of vocal range, and I know that those who sing or play an instrument will likely speak my same language and have ears attuned to hearing the low and high notes in speech.
As a singer, I boast a fairly wide range: three octaves, which means I can sing all parts from alto to high soprano. When I speak, I tend to also use a wide range of pitches depending on what I’m saying. If I’m excited about something, my pitch will be higher. If I’m delivering something of grave importance, my pitch will be lower.
Delivering the Right Pitch
Being able to vary pitch is essential in keeping your audience’s attention and to your on-camera success.
The vast majority of us do not sound like Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and have at least some vocal variety in our normal conversation, but often that natural inflection is lost once we step in front of a camera.
Why is that the case?
It gets back to the conflict between concentrating on content versus concentrating on performance.
In casual conversation, a person’s natural inflection changes based on what he or she is conveying. Imagine if a mom gave a directive to her children in a monotone. Do you think they’d listen and act upon her commands? Probably not. Instead, she’d probably emphasize the vital information by highlighting certain words: “Please come here right now or you will end up in time-out.” (For fun, try to say that in a monotone.)
The natural tendency when you’re speaking on camera, especially if you’re reading off a teleprompter, is to lose that natural variation because you’re simply saying the words and not thinking about the meaning behind the words. To reclaim your natural inflection, you need to always stay connected to the content and let that serve as automatic pitch control.
If you found this information valuable, check out my book, On-Camera Coach: Tools and Techniques for Business Professionals in a Video-Driven World, now available from Wiley Publishing. On-Camera Coach aims to take the mystery out of communicating through the camera and provides specific tips and techniques that can make your message sing—and you, the messenger, feel confident in a job well done.