PHILADELPHIA—There’s been a lot of shouting at the Democratic National Convention. Cory Booker and Andrew Cuomo, in particular, abused eardrums of people tuning in to the TV broadcast. Jennifer Granholm—a notable shouter at the 2012 DNC—just did it again.
If you’re wondering why these folks don’t think to modulate, the answer has to do with balancing the needs of the room with the needs of the TV audience. What plays as vigorous and engaged inside a cavernous arena can play as loud and shrieky when observed from the comfort of your living room sofa.
This is actually something the speakers get coached on. There’s no need to yell to be heard over a raucous convention crowd—the mic is sensitive and plugged directly into the TV soundboards, so anyone watching at home will hear you just fine.
I spoke to veteran speechwriter David Litt—who worked in the 2012 DNC speechwriting operation—about this dynamic. Here’s what he told me:
If the crowd gets into it, you have to be more controlled. You don’t want to sound like you’re yelling. What Michelle Obama and Bill Clinton did really well is speak to the viewer at home. It’s a different set of skills. They’re not matching the energy of the crowd—they’re a little less, they’re letting the crowd come to them. Jennifer Granholm in 2012 had a good speech, but people in the room were going crazy. And what seemed energetic from her in the room and got people fired up, on TV it was adding 10 decibels. The Dean scream is another good example of that. To people in the arena, it didn’t sound like a huge moment, but if you’re right in the mic, it’s very different.