Allison Smith

The Human Factors in Announcing

Without a doubt, being ill, even with something as routine as the common cold or a basic case of the flu,  is a serious setback in productivity and makes even the simplest tasks difficult. Feeling the pressures of work and the need to keep soldiering forward despite feeling miserable is common to almost everyone regardless of occupation; but for singers, newscasters, and those of us who make our living recording our own voice, having stuffed sinuses or a gravelly throat that alters our sound renders us absolutely unable to work.

As a professional telephone voice, my voiceprint is ultimately my product, and the importance of my voice today matching my voice of a year ago is of utmost importance. I might feel well enough to stand in front of the mic and knock a few sound files off, but it’s wasted time if a cold or congestion has altered the way I sound. Many Web sites geared to voice talent have numerous sponsors in the cold elixir industry, all of them proclaiming to have the remedy to buy voice professionals extra time in front of the mic. The reality remains: If a cold or flu has your name on it, take care of yourself and let it run its course. And don’t try to sneak back to work before it’s completely gone; I have long-term clients who know me well who have said to me when I’ve tried to shorten my recovery: “Nope. We can still hear it. You’re 90 percent there, but not quite.”)

Even something as simple as a teeth cleaning or a minor dental procedure that might require freezing of the mouth, and might create an annoyance for an accountant returning to work and worrying about lop-sided face and drool issues, puts someone like me out of work for half a day, easily.

I was also faced with an interesting challenge a couple of years ago when I became one of the several thousand adults per year who are fitted with braces to correct a bite-alignment issue. So worried was I about them affecting my diction that I did some work with a speech pathologist to make sure they didn’t pose a problem with my work. Luckily, they proved to be a non-issue. I give my orthodontist credit for fully understanding the whole interlocking economy of “Can’t work/can’t pay orthodontic bill”.

The last aspect of the human factors in voice care is not allowing the voice to be subjected to extreme strain. This is not to say that in between takes I lie around the house in Celine-Dion-style-voice-arrest, with a cashmere Pashmina wrapped around my throat, sipping lemon tea, with houseboys using palm fronds to coax the humidifier steam toward me, although it is an enchanting idea. No, it’s more about not allowing the voice to sustain injury.  I was told by an old and wise DJ years ago to never try to speak above a crowd, never out-shout anyone, and resist roller coasters if they make you scream. Ever notice how deep, sultry, and Demi-Moore-ish your voice can sound the day after a simple night out in a crowded pub, where you’ve been forced to converse at a loud volume? That would be useful if I were auditioning the next day for a Demi-Moore-sounding radio spot (and that’s actually a frequent character description on radio copy specs.) Otherwise, it’s a sign of minor vocal cord strain and should be avoided if your sound is your product.

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Allison Smith is a professional telephone voice, having voiced platforms for Sprint, Verizon, Qwest, Cingular, Bell Canada, Vonage, Twitterfone, Hawaiian Telcom, and the Asterisk Open-Source PBX. Her Web site is www.theivrvoice.com.