My professional life plays out on two extremes. In the morning, I record audiobooks. In the evening, I am the PA announcer for a baseball team. There could not be a more vivid study in contrasts.
Narrating a book takes place in what is commonly referred to as an isolation booth. This is exactly what it sounds like – a small room (in my case 4×4 foot), insulated from nearly everything in the outside world. It is virtually soundproof, has one teeny window, and one small LED lamp. The booth even has it’s own ventilation system. It’s dark, tight, and . . . . isolated.
The Press Box at the baseball diamond is far from isolated. It sits atop the snack bar in the midst of a stadium that holds more than a thousand people on any given night. The front windows of the box are roll-up doors (think warehouse) that provide a 270-degree view of the field. On either side of my chair are three or four other people, all doing their jobs while I do mine. And most of their jobs involve making noise.
I am the only one talking when I record a book. In the press box, there are typically 3 or 4 other people talking at the same time.
The differences go beyond physical.
When I’m doing a book, technology offers me the opportunity to stop and re-record a section as many times as I need to. I am a stickler for “getting it just right” and will often re-take 5, 6, or even a dozen times. At the ballpark, what you say is what you say. There are no “do-overs.” (Leading to some memorable bloopers).
When I’m narrating, the script is familiar to me, having pre-read and marked-up the entire manuscript. At the ballpark I read what they stick in front of my face – quite often written on little yellow stickie notes (in some of the worst penmanship you could imagine). In the studio, no one hears a nono-second of audio until I deem it ready. In the press box . . . well, you get the picture.
The microphone I use in the studio is incredibly sensitive. I swear it can hear my beard grow. Not quite, but it does pick up the sound of my shirt collar rubbing against my beard. So, I wear a collarless cotton t-shirt to eliminate noise. Embedded in the “wind” screen of the mic at the stadium are bits and pieces of a sandwich the last announcer was eating.
But the are some similarities.
My job in both situations is to engage my audience. In either scenario, I am telling a story. Diction and enunciation are critical in the studio and I work hard at speaking precisely in the press box. Audiobook listeners have my voice right in their ear and can hear subtle discrepancies. It’s much easier for ballpark fans to understand what’s coming over the PA system if I speak clearly and distinctly. It helps to add variety to my pacing, tone, and energy level.
While the styles of delivery are polar opposites, both require me to keep my head in the game. The end product is better when I pay attention to the fundamentals – breathing, diction, phrasing, pacing.
Bottom line — the listener and the baseball fan have the same objective: they want me to lead them through the story, whether it’s a 9-hour discussion of the latest psychological research or a 9-inning pitching duel. Telling stories is what I do – no matter where I do it.