Let’s get Technical . . . with Audio.
As your story is the most compelling part of your audio clip, there’s no need to sweat the technical stuff. Several inexpensive, user-friendly recording options are probably sitting right in front of you, on your computer.
Here are the Top Five Tips for your audio recording:
1) Write as you speak: As you’re writing, speak aloud so that you use language you would normally use for speaking, rather than for writing.
2) Use headphones: When you do record your audio, make sure to use headphones so that you know what you sound like. But don’t just trust what you hear. Sometimes there are different controls for how loud the microphone is picking up your voice, and for your headphone volume. Recording programs and devices should have a visual indicator for your voice level.
In Garageband, it looks like this in the editing window when you play back what you’ve recorded:
See how the bars are green, a little more than midway into the window? This is a good level.
In this example, my voice is too loud. This is called peaking and your voice will sound tinny. This means you are too close to your microphone. Move back, or speak more softly so that your voice is in the “GOOD” range.
In this example, my voice is too low. I either need to speak up, or move closer to the mic.
3. Practice, and do a test export. Before you record, practice saying your script aloud at least 5 times. Print it out so that you can underline words you want to emphasize. You should also time yourself, to make sure that you are staying within the allotted limit. Also, record a short 10 second snippet and practice exporting it into the school’s acceptable format.
4. Think like your audience. The admissions committee is going to be listening to hundreds, maybe thousands of these clips. Most people will probably use Garageband–so if you choose to jazz up your piece with one of the audio jingles they provide–most likely someone else will too, and you will sound less unique! What is going to make you stand out the most is your story. So again, and I can’t emphasize this enough–unless adding extra music or sound is part of YOUR story–DON’T add it in!
5. Record in front of another person, and smile. This will help you to visualize your audience, and help you sound more like you are telling a story, rather than just reading off a page. By smiling, you will automatically boost your energy, and sound more interesting as you speak.
Stay tuned for the final Part V of the series: Let’s Get Technical . . . with Video.
By Michelle Stockman, who worked in the Columbia Business School admissions office, has a Masters in Journalism from Columbia, and has assisted Accepted.com clients applying to top business schools since 2007. When not advising Accepted’s clients, she is a multimedia producer with works published by Agence France Presse, Economist.com, WSJ.com, the Times of India, and Hindustan Times. She is happy to help you with your application.