Faculty Spotlight

Adventures in podcasting: finding my voice anew

April 13, 2016 by Brandman University

When Joe Cockrell, vice chancellor for Communications and my boss, turned to me in a meeting and said, “I want you to do podcasts,” I wasn’t sure how to respond.

Let’s just say, immediate and overwhelming enthusiasm may not have been my first reaction. My career in journalism included plenty of writing, photography and editing. It did not include sound.

But I’m a team player at heart, so I probably managed to eek out an “OK” while hoping he would forget he said it.

He didn’t.

Like a lot of people, listening to a recording of my voice has been a cringe-worthy experience. The thought that other people might hear it as well was even more perturbing.

Fortunately, my voice has come a long way since I happily sang “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” into tape recorder at age 4 and then endured my older sister howling with laughter and telling me I sounded terrible. She wasn’t wrong.

Thanks to a pair of college roommates who were speech therapists, I got a little free advice years ago about improving tonal quality (“drop your jaw, Cindy”). Thanks to singing in a choir, I learned a little something about modulating volume and pitch. Thanks to my colleague Gustav Deutsch, the Brandman studio has top-notch recording equipment and the tools to fix verbal glitches.

So when I finally mustered the courage to listen to myself anew, I was pleasantly surprised. Also, my sister wasn’t there for an instant critique.

With that hurdle faced, it was time to start thinking about what a Brandman podcast should be. While we were still contemplating that, faculty member Sheila Steinberg stepped forward with some ideas of her own and recorded the first three Brandman Speaks podcasts. But I was still on the hook for “doing podcasts.”

And then I got lucky. UC Berkeley’s Advanced Media Institute offers a variety of workshops for career professionals seeking to expand the way they tell stories, including “Podcasting: Telling Stories in Sound.”

Thanks to expert advice from podcast instructor Ben Manilla, my confidence grew. Armed with hands-on experience recording and editing sound and instant critiquing from classmates (far kinder than my sister’s), I returned to the Brandman studio smarter, more enthusiastic and ready to tackle podcasting.

Since then, we’ve added additional equipment so I can record off site as well as in the studio. We’ve introduced the Career Talk series of shorter podcasts focusing on career paths and advice from students and alumni. I’ve added short recordings to stories – in journalism lingo they would be called sidebars – when a subject had something interesting to say that didn’t really fit with the focus of the story or when the voices of third-graders helped set the scene.

Others have joined in, offering topics and their own interview styles to the mix. You can listen to theirs and mine here.

Brandman faculty, staff, students and alumni can also join in by suggesting topics or people they would like to hear on podcasts, being interview subjects or pairing up for their own Brandman Speaks podcast. Email me at codell@brandman.edu if you want more information or have ideas to offer.

And don’t worry. You’ll definitely sound better than you did when you were 4.

Before heading into the studio, consider these tips:
• The best technique for getting people to talk is silence.
• Listen with your eyes and avoid saying “right” or “a huh” or “yah” when another person is talking.
• Don’t tap your pen, bang on the table or shuffle papers. • Use pitch, volume, tempo and rhythm to create mood and emphasis.
• Open your mouth (more than normal) to get the words out.
• Use your hands. Even if nobody will see them, it helps you speak more naturally.
• Think of it as personal. The other “person” (the listener) is less than 6 feet away.
• Be crisp but not stilted.
• Read your script or questions aloud before recording.
• If you’re conducting the interview, let the interviewees tell the story, don’t tell it for them.
• Use only familiar acronyms and abbreviations.
• Avoid unnecessary words (that, speaking of).

About the author

Cindy O'Dell, Brandman University communications manager

Cindy O’Dell

Cindy O’Dell is the communications manager at Brandman University where she writes stories, takes pictures and manages the nimbler.brandmannews.sachiel.xyz website, in addition to scheduling and recording Brandman Speaks podcasts.

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