Friday, May 30, 2008

The perfect voice, the perfect podcast?

I've been given thought lately to the effectiveness of podcasting as a tool for delivering training. After discussing the issue with an expert in the field I can see how it could easily be classified under the "rapid" banner too. The expert, Peter Galante of JapanesePod101, revealed that he felt that success or failure of podcasting as an enterprise lay in one or two keys features, chief of which was an an engaging voice.

So, today's spurious-advertorial-disguised-as-science* piece on the BBC, courtesy of Post Office Telecoms, was actually fairly interesting.

The research purports to reveal the perfect voice. Researchers tested people's reactions to a variety of previously unknown voices (ie there was no bias based on previous exposure) then the voices that scored best were analysed to find out what traits they shared. It revealed the sorts of things that people found most appealing.

Issues they looked at included the tone, speed, pauses and so forth. The top voices for women included Mariella Frostrup and Dame Judi Dench; for men it was Jeremy Irons and Alan Rickman. While these folk are probably out of the budget of most elearning projects, they at least give you an idea of the kind of voices you should be looking to if you want people to receive your learning most favourably.

I guess that this would come with caveats - the antithesis for these plummy tones was Jonathan Ross, but with his listening figures contributing to Radio 2's position as the most popular radio station in the UK, clearly there are plenty of people who like him. That said, he was a TV personality long before radio so it's possible he simply brings existing fans with him.

However, key issues like clarity of pronunciation, richness of voice and sensible pacing are goals that can be aimed for by all podcasters.

* usually these are marked by a commercial sponsor (check) and some nonsense equation (check). The best champion in the fight against most of this kind of rubbish is the Guardian's Ben Goodacre in his Bad Science column.

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