Rehearsing for an effective radio piece

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(based on the CBC Radio Skills Manual)

“Say what you have to say as clearly and as well as you can; then your style, like a melody, will float over it.”

-George Bernard Shaw

Radio is an intimate form of communication. Ideally, the listener should feel an engaging performer is talking to him directly.

To be engaging and natural sounding, the performer must maintain good physical posture and focus on what he or she is saying.

This exercise will help you perform better:

  • Sit with your feet firmly planted on the floor, buttocks on the edge of your chair.
  • Keep your back straight, shoulders square. That opens up the column of air and takes pressure off the diaphragm.
  • Keep only your wrists on the table, so that your body doesn’t slump forward and bear weight on your forearms.
  • If you are right-handed, the microphone should be to the left of your head, and if you are left-handed, it should be to the right. This will help you to eliminate all microphone noises.

It’s essential that every script be rehearsed aloud before it goes to air. Why should the listener get the rehearsal? A good rehearsal should be as close to the final performance as you can make it:

  • Read aloud.
  • Think of speaking to one person about six feet away. This helps with your volume and intensity.

Finding Flaws and Imperfections

The rehearsal is where you can correct the tiny flaws and imperfections that may have crept into the writing. If you know what to look for, you stand a chance of finding them.

Here are some possibilities:

Is the emotional tone obvious to you?

It must be appropriate to the content of the story. You can’t perform happy stories and sad stories with the same emotional tone.

Are the thoughts and ideas clear and understandable to you?

Unless you can think the script through, you won’t be able to sort out the relative importance of words and phrases.

Is the language clear?

If the script is fuzzy, indirect or full of jargon, your performance will become passive at best, but more likely horribly confused.

Do you see the pictures?

Allow your mind to visualize the person or place you are talking about. If you visualize as you are performing, you are allowing the listener time to form a picture in his/her mind. You both become participants in creating the story.

Are you speaking in your normal conversational tone?

Does your voice have the same pitch and cadences you use in conversation off air? Is the pacing of your speech pretty much the same? If it seems different, go back to the top of this checklist and work through it again, beginning with your body position.

Key Points

This is a checklist that will help enhance your performance:

  1. Check your story to make sure that you have written it to be spoken, not read, that is, you have done a “mouth edit” and that you have one thought per sentence. You have set the margins on your printer so that each line is no more than 4 inches, you have made each sentence a paragraph and that you have a double space between each paragraph.
  2. Look at your script as if it were a playlet. If you write the script yourself or if you are reading a script written by someone else, divide it into scenes. Use a felt pen to mark the divisions. Draw the lines all the way across the page.
  3. Read the first two sentences. When you feel you are very familiar with the content, cover it and say those two lines as closely as you can to the actual words you have on the page. Note that you are not required to memorize the script. Check to see that you haven’t deleted or distorted any of the information. If you have not, then repeat the same procedure with the next two lines and so on, until you have completed the script.
  4. Reread the whole script silently.
  5. You are now ready for your rehearsal. Ad-lib in a couple of sentences the point of your story. This will remind you of the tone of the story and help you begin creating the appropriate mood.
  6. Look up at the end of each scene. Remember that you should still be looking up when you say the last word in the scene. To say the whole sentence looking up, except for the last word, defeats the exercise.
  7. Now is the time for you to review the places in the script where you felt you were not telling the story well and revise the wording and/or tone.
  8. Tell the story with sincerity, and your style (who you are) will float over it.