Friday, 30 November 2012

All present and correct...

Today we are proud to publish the latest title in our “Improve Your Speech” audio series: “TheLowdown: Improve Your Speech – Women in Business” by vocal coach Sarah Stephenson. Here she has some tips for giving a presentation:

The key to a great presentation is preparation, practice and even more practice! Factor time into your schedule to prepare not just the content of your presentation, but also to practice your presentation to ensure you are really comfortable and secure with your material. When rehearsing your presentation, imagine that you are speaking to a group of your favorite friends, who won’t want you to fail. If you have to give a PowerPoint presentation, make sure you can get into the room before the meeting – do you know where the projector will be? Will you be standing or sitting?

A note about PowerPoint: PowerPoint is merely a presentational aid. When you are presenting, don’t be glued to the slides. Allow your voice and your physical presence to communicate your findings. If you become overly reliant on PowerPoint, you could end up with a presentation that seems cold, generic, anonymous and flat. Mean what you say. Face your audience and only occasionally refer back to the slides.

Keep your body open with neutral posture and breath support. Allow yourself, as you are presenting, to speak in the moment. You know what you need to say, but I encourage you to speak with spontaneity, not reading from a script. This takes courage, but you should find it liberating and your audience will certainly get a greater sense of who you are and what you are saying. The secret to PowerPoint is to keep it simple. If you find the technology too daunting, bin it - and speak from, the heart! If PowerPoint goes wrong, or your computer crashes, don’t be thrown. Have a back up, such as a hard copy of your slides. Your audience are there to see you, not a robot!

On the day of your presentation, you should arrive early to suss out the room. If you can, practice in the space before the delegates arrive. Notice its size and what it is made of: wooden floors could be noisy underfoot, so wearing appropriate footwear could help, or else be lighter on your feet! There might be an echo, in which case you would need to allow time to let a thought ‘land’ before moving onto your next point.  Walk and breathe the space, using a long sustained out breath. Then stand and breathe where you will be presenting. Try delivering the opening of your presentation from different parts of the room. This may sound strange, but you will start to feel more relaxed and less daunted and you will start to see and feel what it is like from the audience’s perspective. It’s something actors do when they start work in a new theatre!

Here’s a quick exercise that’s great if you need your voice to carry over a distance. Working with a supported breath, start with a ‘Hey’ and, without the throat getting tight, imagine your sound is a tennis ball that you are ‘batting’ to the other side of the room. ‘Hey, hey hey.’ Feel how when you support your sound it can carry without getting tight and constricted. Try this exercise using different sounds, hee, hoo, ho, and so on. This will help your voice will carry even in a large venue. – Sarah Stephenson

Friday, 23 November 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, especially to all our Stateside friends! Today (and every day!) we're thankful for our wonderful writers, narrators, readers and listeners! Here's a bit of holiday fun....


Friday, 16 November 2012

iPad or A4...?

Sound editor Al on his favourite new studio technology...

We had an interesting technological “happening” this week, which occurred in a recording session that Ali was producing.

Instead of the narrator reading from a traditional paper script, she read the entire book…from her iPad, after having been sent the script electronically!

I have to admit that this concept took me completely by surprise!

The ever-changing and multi-faceted technological options that currently exist are obviously here to stay and it is inevitable that people look for new and exciting ways to put those options to the test - and replacing a bulky paper script with an easy to carry and several pounds lighter iPad is one awesome way of using technology to make life easier! (plus postage or courier costs are eliminated, as the script file can be transferred via the internet)

As well as making life more of a breeze for the reader/narrator, using an iPad rather than several hundred sheets of A4, means that the process is smoother for the engineer, the producer and the audio editor as one key element is removed…the dreaded page-turn!

The “normal” method of reading from a paper script involves the reader sitting with his/her script placed in an easy to read position (usually on a table mounted lectern).  Straight away, this has limitations, as there can really only be one or two sheets of A4 in front of the reader so that they are easy to view - when the next sheet is due, one of the old pages is either turned over or replaced by the next page in sequence - hence you end up with a page-turn…
There are some readers/narrators that are actually very good at page-turns and can often covertly slide-in the new sheet whilst covering up the old, but inevitably, a buildup of A4 is created and at some point, the noise will be recorded, such is the sensitivity of recording studio microphones.

The offending page-turns are most commonly removed as part of the recording process but in most cases will result in the interruption of flow from the reader and a subsequent interruption and pick-up in the recording process - this takes precious time to resolve in situ and can also affect the time taken for editing…

Then along comes the iPad and “hey presto” page-turns are eliminated.

Of course, for audio book producers and audio editors, the traditional and long established paper script will remain – well, if you saw any of the scripts after a recording session, you would totally understand, as they are covered in notes, comments, timings, lines, squiggles and other “pen-based” markings - for the moment, that’s a little tricky to replicate on an iPad* - however, technologies do exist already to write electronically - this will only improve…

Oh and before I forget, other options for doing many of the same things as an iPad exist and are readily available for purchase - and remember…Christmas is coming! :-) - Al Muirden

*iAnnotate works beautifully! x Lorelei

Friday, 9 November 2012

Could it happen again?

John Lee, author of "The Lowdown: A Short History of the Origins of World War I", considers the question...

"Despite Noel Coward’s admonition that ‘we must not be beastly to the Germans’, and how we are all firm allies now, it is almost impossible not to conclude that the German ruling-class was looking for an excuse for a war in Europe that was scheduled to start some time after the summer of 1914.  The killings at Sarajevo were cleverly turned into a threat against Germany, but, if they had not happened, there would have been another excuse found before too long.

Germany had convinced itself that all its neighbours were consumed with jealousy of her, and were ganging up to bring about her destruction, first by strangling her legitimate bid to be a world power, and ultimately by all-out attack.  Rather than sit and wait for her enemies to grow stronger year on year, Germany decided to risk everything on issuing clear ultimatums threatening war, and them delivering a knockout blow with all her strength. (And she would do it all again in 1939!)

This all left me wondering how the world has changed since 1945, arguably for the better.  That might not be an immediately obvious deduction, but this is what I mean. Studying the run up to the First World War, I had been struck at how nations could decide that their ‘honour’ had been ‘fatally compromised’ and how war was the only possible solution.  Nations were continually threatening each other with ultimatums, forming ‘defensive’ alliances while arming themselves with all the latest weaponry, and coolly laying plans for a war that was seen as utterly inevitable, and even desirable.  There was all that psychobabble about war being the ultimate test of a nation’s fitness to strut upon the world stage, where ‘vigorous young nations’ had the right, and indeed the moral duty, to sweep older states into the dustbin of history.

We don’t get much talk like that any more (not even in the ‘Daily Mail’!)   Do nations take umbrage at ‘insults’ these days?  All the great colonial empires have been demolished, leaving every nation to make a mess of itself in its own way.

Now here is a scary thought.  There have been many wars since 1945, and there are ongoing wars at this very moment, but can anyone envisage a great worldwide conflict like 1914-1918 or 1939-1945 ever again?  Could you see modern youth queuing up at the recruiting offices like they did in 1914? Is that because we are increasingly comfortable, and connected (thanks to the digital age we live in, and all those foreign holidays), or is it because we have invented weapons so destructive that their use becomes idiocy.  We all recognise now that the ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ of the nuclear age certainly deserved its acronym, MAD, though we are only just realising what terrible psychic damage the constant threat of that destruction may have caused.  But the ‘final war’ never happened, and is looking increasingly less likely.  Only because of the threat of nuclear annihilation?  I sincerely hope not. Maybe the world is growing up at last.  Looking at the nation-sized tantrums that led to the First World War, there might yet be cause for hope.- John Lee