Okay. I want you to think about this for a minute. Close your eyes. When you can only hear someone and you can't see them, their voice is how you connect. And if it's not welcoming or you don't feel a connection, how long are you going to stay engaged? Not very long.
What makes me really sad is when I see so many people invest a ton of time and energy on how they look and on their message, and then they're not intentional about how they sound.
Your podcast is a big part of your platform. In today's ever increasingly crowded podcast community your voice is what people recognize and connect with and it's what makes you stand out. So with podcasts and video being such an important part of your brand platform today, it really pays to pay attention to your voice.
I found this great quote from voice coach Timothy Noonan really sums up why you need to invest some time in your voice. Tim says “vocal branding is the strategic and purposeful use of your voice to strengthen and enhance brand experiences so that your products, brands, and user experiences sound as compelling as they look and feel.” He continues.
“Your content is judged on the facts, your identity and character on your voice. It’s all about relationships. Whenever we speak, we express the relationships that we hold with ourselves, the things we're talking about, and in particular the attitude that we hold toward our audience.
Wow. I love that. Our voice is about our relationship with ourselves in our audience… and that's what on camera presence is all about. This really gives me goosebumps. Okay, let's get started, my interview with voice actor Jeff Gelder is below.
Val: We have a wonderful guest to help us learn about local branding, why it matters, and how you can develop your own vocal brand. This is a big topic, so we're going to scratch just the surface and give you some tools to get started so that you can find your own vocal brand.
My guest is voice actor and veteran radio personality Jeff Gelder, and he's going to share some of his vast experience with us about developing your vocal brand and how you can work to make sure you sound your very best on camera and on your podcast. I first met Jeff when he moved to San Diego more than 30 years ago, and during that time I've watched his rise to become a fixture in the San Diego radio market.
Jeff is a big believer in the power and influence of the human voice and that's a passion he actively practices as a voice actor and emcee through his company Geldrerhead productions in addition to his on camera live events and doing lots of time behind the microphone.
Jeff has worked with Sony, ESPN, Dell, Jenny, Craig, and Toyota, and interviewed celebrities from Olivia Newton, John to Woody Harrelson. When Jeff is not on the air recording audio books he serves as the president and founder of the Children's Holiday Magic Project, which is near and dear to his heart. It’s a successful nonprofit which benefits children who have to spend their holidays in the hospital. Jeff and his volunteers distribute more than 10,000 customized CDs full of songs and stories to bring joy and smiles to these kids during the holidays. Welcome, Jeff. I am so excited to have you here today and get to share your expertise.
Jeff: Thank you so much. It's a pleasure to be here.
Val: I’m happy that you're here and I want to just dive in. The term vocal branding is being more widely used, and like I said today, we're only going to have time to scratch the surface of what goes into developing a vocal brand. Today I want to introduce the concept and provide some foundation for our listeners. How do you define a local brand?
Jeff: Vocal branding is a little bit of a trendy term now, but I think it's a very important one. It's creating your signature if you will, of your voice. So if you're doing a podcast or a radio show host then your brand voice is your signature and it needs to be very consistent so people know what to expect and they know how it makes them feel when they hear your voice.
Val: because the human voice is how we express emotion and it tells other people what's going on inside of us. And it also supports the images for your brand too. So it's kind of like the same way that graphic brand design. We use shapes and colors and different types of images to evoke a brand identity, a vocal brand employs our voice.
Jeff: I think it's a way to enhance your graphic design, your logo and your business with a branded voice that people become accustomed to. In my business I recommend to my clients that you use my voice not only for your commercials but on your on hold message for your training videos and other places you might need a professional voice. Be consistent, have that same voice, and then when your client or customer ears that voice, they immediately think of you.
Val: Yeah, unconsciously sometimes we don't even realize that. But if you think about it, when you're on hold, that voice is how you connect and think about that company.
Jeff: Absolutely. See how you feel sometimes after you've listened to an annoying voice for 30 seconds or two minutes, versus a calm voice or maybe a funny voice or a voice that's giving you really great tips on how to make your life better or things like that.
Val: And and no two voices are exactly alike, so your voice really represents who you are and what you stand for and it's what people expect to hear when they hear from you. Would you describe yours for me what is it? What is your vocal brand? I love it. It's,
Jeff: that smooth, consistent voice that reminds you of the finest espresso.
Val: Oh yeah. Okay. Very good. My next observation here is that, I work with a lot of people who don't like the sound of their own voice either on video or when they've recorded a podcast. What exactly is the science behind that?
Jeff: Well, I know what it has to do with the eardrum and how you listen to how you hear your voice on the inside versus listening to it on a speaker and a recording and how somebody else hears it. So it's very different. You hear it in your head and it's kind of an echo chamber. You hear it on a speaker and it as totally different inflection. Anyone can learn to love their voice. It may take awhile. It took me quite a while actually when I got on the radio to to actually learn to like to listen to it, but I also learned it's not just that you don't like it, that maybe you need some kind of training or some coaching or there's different ways you can make it a little more pleasing even to yourself and also like we're talking with the branding is having that visual. What is it your voice reminds you of. What is that visual? You know, you get to choose. Wait a minute. I want my voice to sound like a really fine cup of espresso.
Val: Oh, okay. I never really thought about it in those terms. Now, one of the things that we were talking about was when you hear your voice on the recording, that's what you sound like, not what's in your head and if you're telling yourself, oh, I don't like the way I sound and you're getting feedback that, hey, it sounds good. What do you tell people?
Jeff: Well, yeah, absolutely don't pay attention to what you're hearing in your head while you're speaking. You want to listen to that voice in the recordings and then, get some feedback and if they say they like it, then pay attention to that and start enhancing that. Take their words of advice or have a vocal coach. Little things that can make a big difference and it's just the way you come across in the way your voice sounds.
Val: I read a great quote from a couple of thought leaders in their field who I studied when I was studying communication. Dr. Ann Utterback is one of them and she shared this advice. She said three words to keep in mind when you're describing most effective delivery for the internet is to stay “casual, comfortable and connected.” I think that’s great, three Cs. You can remember that and when I listen to your voice, that's what it sounds like. It's casual, it's comfortable, it's easy to be around and I feel really strong connection with you. How do you create a vocal brand? What are some of the things you consider when you're working with somebody to create a vocal brand?
Jeff: Well, it is an ongoing process. There is a really great book, called vocal branding by Cecilia Siegel and she's got some amazing exercises in there and some of those that I recall is first of all is the visual. What does your voice remind you of, find out that visual, like I did with the espresso kind of thing. Getting feedback, honest feedback, ask people, you know, when you hear this voice, what does it make you feel, what does it make you think of? And then bring those things together and you can create your vocal brand. It'll come together. It'll kind of gel like, okay, this my voice is like this.
Val: That's great advice. We did a podcast on finding your visual identity and we ask those types of questions. So when you're looking to find your vocal identity or your vocal brand, there is a series of questions. I'll definitely put a link to her book in the show notes so people can check that out. How would you describe a vocal brand Jeff? The elements of a vocal brand is it tone? Is it volume? Is it how fast people talk? What exactly would you say constitutes the elements of a vocal brand?
Jeff: It's all those things and more. I think it is the tone and the volume, but it's also the whole attitude that you've got going on. You've got to make sure that when you're on, your voice is that vocal brand and it may be a little bit different than it probably from your day to day, but you still want to be authentic. You're going to have a little bit more energy, a little bit more drive or happiness for that listener.
Val: so that authenticity and staying casual and comfortable is really important so that your listeners can stay connected to you. Okay. What I'd like to do right now is turn to some really practical tips and what I'm curious about are what are some of the key mistakes that you see people make when it comes to their voice?
Jeff:I think the biggest mistake is not warming up your voice. The voice is a muscle. It's like going to the gym and keeping it in shape and so doing exercise prior to speaking and using it as well as doing exercises every day you're not using it. Being careful what you eat and drink before using your voice. I stay away from dairy, stay away from sugar. Caffeine. Some people can do it, no problem. Others? No, but it is very drying to the vocal chords.
Val: I know whenever I had somebody coming to do voice work, or when I do voice work, I always like to have a warm cup of water. Not hot water, but warm water because it kept my vocal cords relaxed. Cold water will actually constrict your vocal chords and make it a lot harder for you to get that nice, full, rich sound. Well, are there some exercises that you can recommend to warm up your voice? What do you do?
Jeff: In fact, I brought them with me right here. My first group are singing exercises. Mo me, ma, mu, and lei, le, la, lou, up and down the register, followed by about three minutes of tongue twisters. What I have also learned, and this was a great coaching tip for me, is if you focus on the tongue twisters and really think about what you're saying, you can say them no problem.
Val: Let’s hear you do one.
Jeff: My favorite one is, friends fly free or fickle Freddy's freckles.
Val: (laughs) Okay. Very good. All right. What about she sold seashells by the seashore?
Jeff: She sells seashells by the seashore or rubber baby buggy bumpers.
Val: So all of those actually to really help with your enunciation and help you warm up more than just your vocal chords, but the muscles in your face as well too, which are really important.
Jeff: Yeah, and your tongue too. I have a big tongue, so I use one called red leather, yellow leather. That really gets the tongue engaged because it can get in your way if you're doing interviews or recordings.
Val: Who knew? What are some other things that you can do to keep your voice in top shape?
Jeff: I use a lot of essential oils actually. That's something I've just recently started to do as far as lavender for calming nerves and things like that. If you're in a situation where you tense or anxious. I use the lemon oil in my water now instead of lemon actual lemons. The citrus can be a little bit drying on the vocal cords, especially if you're doing any kind of singing. There's also some great essential oils for colds if you have a cold or a sinus problem. I've used one called Breathe that's very good and opens up the sinus passages. I use peppermint every morning to kind of wake up and get things going. Right now I'm right here at my studio. I've got one called motivate. That motivates you when you get a little lethargic, I guess I should say.
Val: a lot of us batch podcasts, so you're doing more than one episode at a time and you know, keeping your energy up as really important.
Jeff: right before you go in a studio or go into a session, I go walk around the block with the dog and get some exercise happening. So you get some energy in that voice as well.
Val: It really helps you keep connected to your material as well too. All right. What are some other things that people can do to make it easier to deliver their message?
Jeff: be very familiar with your material. Make sure you read over your material and make sure you do it out loud. I've run into a lot of voice people who just read over their material quiet and silent. Yeah, you may be a little familiar with it, but then when you speak it out loud, it sounds totally different.
Val: I find that a lot when people write something and it's not necessarily for the spoken voice, it's for the page. There are a lot of places that you're going to stumble and the actual delivery's just not the same.
Jeff: Yeah, absolutely. And, and you're at the whim of the writer and some people are great about writing for voice and some are not.
Val: And when you, even when you write for yourself, if you are, if you're doing something for a podcast, that voice is going to be different and what you're writing for a blog then.
Val: So we've heard about the things that we shouldn't do. What would you recommend to people that they do every time then before they actually record?
Jeff: I have my own starting ritual that I do within at least 30 minutes prior to going into the studio recording, start out with lots of water, plenty of water to hydrate the vocal chords and it takes awhile, you can't just drink the water like right before you go in. Although that helps. I get exercise, I always get outside, take the dog for a walk around the block or if I'm in a studio, I step outside and try to do some jumping jacks or just a little bit of exercise to get the blood flowing, that sort of thing.
I also make sure there is plenty of water in the studio because during a session, especially like when I'm recording an audio book, I might be in there for three hours at a time and I go through a lot of water, so make sure that's at hand for sure and absolutely do your warmups.
Make sure you do the scales. Make sure you do the tongue twisters, like I mentioned earlier, I do the tongue to tongue twisters, three times each. And, if you don't do them correctly, then realize that means you're not focused, so you're probably not going to be focused in your session. So go back and read those until you focus on those words and everything else kind of goes away.
Val: Well, what are some other things that people can do to ensure that they sound great? Whether it's on camera or for their podcasts?
Jeff: Well, you've probably heard it about a lot of different areas, but sleep, make sure you get plenty of sleep. If you're tired or you've had a little sleep, your voice might be good for a few minutes and then you're starting to get a lot deeper and a lot more raspy.
Val: I didn't really think about that, but it's super important to everything. Okay, very good. So now we've warmed up. We've done our physical activity. One of the things that is so important is that connection, that intimate connection you create with your listeners. What are some of the things that you do to create that connection? Because I know when I listened to your voice, it is, that smooth, silky sound. I feel like you're talking to me. What are some of the things you do to create that?
Jeff: well, good, t it's working. I'm glad.
Val: Yes it does.
Jeff: It was an old radio trick actually that my very first boss in radio taught me. Make sure you're focusing on a person, a picture that you're talking to one-on-one because you can be obviously speaking to 10, or 20,000 people at a time, but you want to be focusing on each one of them because they're listening, you know, one on one. So if you focus on a photograph or something like that, it really pulls your focus as if you're telling a story to that person.
Val: In some cases I've heard this too is that when you have a podcast, you know who your target audience is, you know who's in your community and if you can have a picture in front of you, it really helps stay focused on what their needs are, what their interests are. And I also think that when you take this seriously and you're purposeful and intentional about your relationship with, with your material and your audience, all of that goes together and it creates a connection that you wouldn't have otherwise.
Jeff: Yeah. Actually I find it interesting when I'm speaking about the Children's Holiday Magic Project, it's such a natural. My focus is to make sure they get the message, what we're talking about and what we're doing for these kids. I kind of fall back on that sometimes because that's an easy one for me because I'm so passionate about it. So whatever your topic is, whatever your material is, make sure you're passionate about it, make sure you're interested in what you're doing.
Val: What are some of your tips about how to use nerves to your advantage?
Jeff: Well, I think the first thing is, is some really good news is if you have nerves, that's a good thing. It's just a matter of, yeah, maybe tapering them off some, but if you don't have any nerves, then you're probably not invested in what you're doing or interested even.
Double check on that and make sure you've got some little butterflies going on in your stomach, and if they're in control, then it's really good. You can turn that into the energy to be a little bit brighter and happier and entertaining. Make sure that gets you kind of up and excited about that.
If I'm doing live events, I look each person in the eye as much as possible. In the beginning I was too nervous to do that because it would pull my attention if somebody would catch your eyes. So now I learned a trick that you just look above their eyes. Look at their forehead, if you're looking up at their forehead, they're not going to catch your eyes so you're not going to get pulled focus and that way they all feel like you know, you are talking to all of them.
Val: Okay, so that's a great tip from a veteran who's done this, so I appreciate that. Before we wrap up, here's a question I get asked and I want to hear your take on it. Some people are not comfortable introducing themselves or when they start a podcast, should I have somebody else introduce me? Should I introduce myself? What's your take on that?
Jeff: I think it's very important to have somebody else introduce you. I think it is great for your podcast or your show. It makes the show sound that much bigger because you've got obviously another professional voice involved. The important part that I find people don't always do is make sure that voice represents you and your brand. You don't want to have an introductory voice that's completely different from who you are. I like to say if it's a female voice, if you're the show host, have a male voice do your introduction, so they're two different people and make it a pleasing sound.
Val: Actually, I'm just thinking about some of the podcasts I listen to and when there is a big disconnect, like you get a real strong announcer voice and then the person comes on and they're vocal intensity doesn't match that it's actually kind of a really big let down.
Jeff: It is and it can be very jarring for the listener. They have to recalibrate everything.
Val: Well, I want to do a quick sum up before you go, and this is what I heard you say today.
Your voice is a huge part of your brand and so it's really essential to creating an emotional connection with your audience and you our delivery should be authentic and comfortable to create that nice warm connection.
It's really important to have a starting ritual so you know that your voice is a critical component of your brand. You need to warm up by doing some exercises for your voice.
Physical activity really helps you get your energy up and always drink a lots of lots of water and make sure you get a good night's sleep ahead of time.
Stay away from coffee and things that will dry out your vocal chords and then mark your script so that you're familiar with your material and then always pretend like you're talking to one person.
To deal with the disconnect of not liking how your voice sounds when we hear it on a recording is to get feedback from trusted sources and then keep practicing to improve your voice. And if that even means finding a vocal coach, do that.
Did I miss anything?
Jeff: No, I think that sounds terrific. And one tip on that too. If your voice is something you don't like, read to the blind or you know, read a lot out loud so people start to give you the feedback and you also get much more familiar and comfortable with your voice.
Val: That's a great tip. And there's a great benefit to the community as well to that. Wow. I never even thought of that. Thank you. Great tip. All right Jeff. So if people would like to hear more of your work, where can they find you?
Jeff: Best place to go would be my website and that is simply gelderhead.com and there is a page of demos you could listen to. They’re from all different types of audio branding.
Val: I just want to say thank you so much again for coming here and sharing your years of experience. It's been a real treat to get to hear some of the behind the scenes exercises and tips that you've shared with us.
Jeff: Thank you. It's been my pleasure. If you don't mind, I have one last tip that I would like to leave with. Everyone remember that your voice is very powerful. The power of words and the power of your intonation can make all the difference. So play with that, enjoy that, make a difference in people's lives by the way you talk to them.
Val: Well, that's a very nice way to end today's show. Thank you so much, Jeff.
Jeff: My pleasure. Well, thank you so much for asking me to be on.
Val: That's all for today. Thanks for listening in and I'm so glad that you're here for the beginning of season two. I'm really looking forward to learning with you.
Here are the links to the resources that Jeff and I mentioned. And as always, if you have questions about being on camera, I'm happy to answer them on a future episode.
Until then, remember, by using some of these simple tips you can have a vocal brand that's memorable and connects with your audience every time.
Val Brown is an Emmy Award winning television producer, story and visual and personal brand consultant, coach, and speaker.
She consults and coaches high performing business professionals and entrepreneurs looking to up their game and increase their on camera confidence using their story to support their brand in video and photos. Val has been featured with Mike Kim on The Brand You Podcast, a show dedicated to helping you build a profitable and iconic personal brand and the Jody Maberry Show focusing on helping you Market, Mobilize, and Master your message.
p.p.s. I’d love to connect on social media and hear your questions and concerns about being in front of the camera.