Natural sounding storytelling

It’s one of the trickiest things about delivering a broadcast story:  You have to practice sounding natural.

Media consultant Joanne Stevens says on the RTDNA website that the trick is to think about “cognitive chunks.”  According to Stevens, you should be deliver your copy as chunks of related information.

Here are her examples:

Example 1: “The alleged attack on a 32-year-old female maid at a midtown hotel occurred on Saturday.”  It should be seen and heard as one ‘cognitive chunk’ and spoken as such.  If your inclination is to… pause/emphasize  ‘attack’ or ‘maid’ or ‘hotel,’ you’re in trouble.

Example 2: “Strauss Kahn remains in custody until an 11 a.m. hearing in Manhattan criminal court.”  This could be one big chunk: or you might see it as two chunks: with ‘in Manhattan criminal court’ serving as secondary information.  It’s up to you.

Example 3: “The meeting will take place as officials discuss increasing a $155 billion loan package to Greece amid concerns the country may be unable to finance its debt next year.” Here you’d most likely see two chunks.

Stevens says that by putting in pauses because you think they should be there, or because you think it sounds professional, you lose the flow that keeps people listening to your information.

So, how do you test yourself?  Once you’re recorded your script, listen with a critical ear.  Are you over-emphasizing certain words or taking dramatic pauses.  Can you identify the cognitive chunks in each line that you read?

You may not like the way you sound at first, but by critiquing your own work, you can eventually improve your delivery.