Hi there, Troy In A Car. I heard you on the radio today. You were arguing with the sports talk show host about whether or not college athletes should be paid. I’m not sure how you felt about how it went, Troy In A Car, but I have to tell you straight: You did not win that argument.
Look, it’s not that you didn’t have compelling content. In fact, I think you had a few really good points. But you lost that argument because of your delivery, plus a few things that were out of your control. I took some notes, because I really want to help you give your argument a fighting chance. Here’s what I came up with:
- Troy In A Car, you are in a car. I’m going to ignore for the moment the fact that you were talking to Sports Talk Radio Show Host Guy when you should have been concentrating on driving. At least you were hands-free, so thanks for that, I guess. But hands-free means speakerphone, which means while you were driving down the Southfield freeway, you were competing with the road noises, the engine noises, and even turn signal noises (thanks for that, too) just to be heard. Meanwhile, Sports Talk Radio Show Host Guy was hermetically sealed in a soundproof studio hidden somewhere in the city of Southfield. He didn’t have any noises to compete with (except for his co-host, who occasionally chimed in with the ever helpful, “No he didn’t!“).
- The hermetically sealed sound proof studio comes with fancy equipment and a producer. Ever notice how resonant Sports Talk Radio Show Host Guy sounds? How his voice sounds rich and full and velvety smooth? That’s because he cheats. He has an expensive, omnidirectional microphone with a windscreen. He has digital voice processors. He knows how far to be positioned from the microphone. His bass, treble, and mid-tone levels have been preset for him. And he has a producer at a soundboard who makes sure that his sound comes through nice and clear without distorting. The producer shoots angry looks at him when he whistles into the microphone or starts shouting. You do not have these things. You have a cell phone with lint in the mouthpiece.
- Your helium voice does not command authority. I had a coworker once who told me that when recording narration for elearning courses, she had to channel her inner Oprah. She understood that Oprah has a way of speaking from her lower register that makes you want to say, “Yes. I believe what Oprah is saying. That book she’s talking about — I now want to read it.” But don’t just take my word for it:
James Earl Jones is a master at this. His voice is nice and low, yes, but he is also deliberate and measured in his speech. You, unfortunately, were less James Earl Jones and more Don Knotts today. That’s what happens when you have to yell to be heard — your voice tends to take off into a comically high register. And at that point, it really doesn’t matter what you’re saying. If Darth Vader argued for a law requiring all on-duty taxi drivers in Brooklyn to have live fruit bats stuffed in their pockets and Barney Fife argued against it, Vader would win every time, and not just because he’s a Sith Lord and can do all those scary tricks.
- “I’m calmer’n you are, Dude.” At some point in the conversation, you realized you were fighting an uphill battle. It may have been when you sensed that the producer’s finger was on the hang up button, or when helpful co-host chimed in, or when you missed your exit because you were talking on the phone while driving. Either way, you started to get frustrated, and frustration through a cellphone in traffic over the radio sounds a lot like desperation. Sports Talk Radio Show Host Guy doesn’t get frustrated, because he knows he has the control in this conversation, and he always will.
My advice? Hang up and drive home. Then practice your vocal delivery. You don’t have to be Oprah or James Earl Jones to give your argument the presentation it deserves. For now, just try being Troy Not In A Car.